Survey: Consumers less confident as outbreak concerns mount

A measure of consumer confidence continues to slide as concerns mount over the effects of the coronavirus on business and labor conditions.

Lynn Franco

The Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index retreated 31.9 points to 86.9 in April. The present situation component of the index fell 91.3 points, the biggest drop on record.

Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said the decline reflects a sharp contraction in economic activity and surge in claims for unemployment insurance related to the outbreak. The expectations component of the index rose, though, suggesting consumers are more upbeat restrictions will ease and businesses will reopen.

“The uncertainty of the economic effects of COVID-19 will likely cause expectations to fluctuate in the months ahead,” Franco said.

The Consumer Confidence Index is based on monthly household surveys. Economists monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.

Less upbeat assessments of current conditions pulled down the presentation situation component of the index.

The proportion of consumers who responded to the survey upon which the index was based who described business conditions as “bad” rose 33.5 points to 45.2 percent. The share of those who called conditions “good” fell 18.4 points to 20.8 percent.

The proportion of those who said jobs are “hard to get” rose 19.8 points to 33.6 percent. The share of those who said jobs were “plentiful” fell 23.3 points to 20 percent.

The short-term outlook was more upbeat, though, pushing up the expectations component of the index up seven points to 93.8.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months rose 21.3 points to
40 percent. The proportion of those who anticipate worsening conditions rose 9.3 points to 25.7 percent.

The share of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in coming months rose 24.1 points to 41 percent. The proportion of those expecting fewer job openings rose 3.2 points to 20.8 percent.

While 16.7 percent of consumers expect their incomes to increase, down 3.3 points, the share of those who anticipate decreasing incomes rose 8.4 points to 18.5 percent.