Index retreats, but consumers mostly confident

Lynn Franco

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has retreated, but continues to reflect mostly upbeat assessments of business and labor conditions.

“Expectations cooled moderately, but overall remain strong. While other parts of the economy may show some weakening, consumers have remained confident and willing to spend,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. “However, if the recent escalation in trade and tariff tensions persist, it could potentially dampen consumers’ optimism regarding the short-term economic outlook.”

The Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index slipped seven-tenths of a point to 135.1 in August. The business research and membership association 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.

For August, assessments of current business and labor conditions pushed the present situation component of the index up 6.3 points to 177.2, the highest level since November 2000.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the August index was based who described business conditions as “good” climbed 2.1 points to 42 percent. The share of consumers who characterized conditions as “bad” dropped 1.4 points to 9.8 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” jumped 5.6 points to 51.2 percent. The share of those who called jobs “hard to get” declined seven-tenths of a point to 11.8 percent.

The short-term outlook for conditions pulled down the expectations component of the index down 5.4 points to 107.

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell 2.1 points to 21.9 percent. The proportion of those who said they expect worsening conditions increased 1.6 points to 10 percent.

The share of consumers who said they expect more jobs to become available in coming months edged down two-tenths of a point to 19.7 percent. The proportion of those anticipating fewer jobs rose 2.5 points to 13.6 percent.