Index: U.S. consumers less confident

A measure of consumer confidence continues to retreat on less upbeat assessments of business and labor conditions.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index fell 2.1 points to 92.6 in May. The decrease was the third in the last four months.

“Consumer confidence declined slightly in May primarly due to consumers rating current conditions less favorably than April. Expectations declined further as consumers remain cautious about the outlook for business and labor conditions. Thus, they continue to expect little changes in economic activity in the months ahead,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board.

The business research and membership association bases the index on the results of monthly surveys of consumers. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of all economic activity in the country.

For May, less optimistic asssessments of current business and labor conditions pulled down the present situation component of the index 4.2 points to 112.9.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the May index was based who described business conditions as “good” rose 1.7 points to 25.9 percent. But the share of those who characterized conditions as “bad” increased more — 3.4 points to 21.6 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” held steady at 24.3 percent. But the share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” rose 1.6 points to 24.4 percent.

Less upbeat projections pulled down the expectations component of the index seven-tenths of a point to 79.

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months rose 1.3 points to 15.1 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worsening conditons climbed eight-tenths of a point to 11.6 percent.

The share of consumers who said they expect more jobs to become available in coming months held steady at 12.8 percent. But the proportion of those who believe fewer jobs will be available rose 1.4 points to 18.1 percent.

While 16.2 percent of consumers expect their incomes to increase, up four-tenths of a point, 12.4 percent of consumers anticipate lower incomes, unchanged from a month ago.