Index: Consumers stirred more than shaken

Lynn Franco

A measure of consumer confidence has increased on more upbeat assessments of business and labor conditions.

The Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index rose 2.4 points to  91.3 in January. A component of the index tracking current conditions increased after three straight months of decreases.

“This course reversal suggests economic growth has not slowed further,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

A component of the index tracking short-term expectations decreased, but Franco said consumers remain cautiously optimistic overall.

“Notably, vacation intentions — particularly plans to travel outside the U.S. and via air — saw an uptick this month and are poised to improve further as vaccination efforts expand,” she said.

The Conference Board bases the index on the results of monthly household surveys. Economists monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the country.

For January, more optimistic assessments of business and labor conditions pulled up the present situation component of the index 6.5 points to 92.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the latest index results were based who described business conditions as “good” rose seven-tenths of a point to 16.5 percent. The share of consumers who called conditions “bad” fell 2.5 points to 39.9 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” rose 1.9 points to 21.9 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” fell 1.3 points to 21.2 percent.

Less upbeat responses pulled down the expectations component of the index four-tenths of a point to 90.8

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell 3.1 points to 31 percent. The proportion of those who said they expect worsening conditions also declined, though — 1.3 points to 17.7 percent.

The share of consumers who said they expect more jobs to become available in coming months fell 4.3 points to 26.1 percent. The proportion of those who forecast fewer jobs fell 1.5 points to 20.6 percent.

Asked about their expectations for income, 15.2 percent of those who responded said they anticipated increases — down six-tenths of a point. Meanwhile, 13.2 percent said they expected decreases  — down 2.3 points.