Consumer Confidence Index dips in March

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, which had declined in February, lost more ground in March. The Index now stands at 102.4 (1985=100), down from 104.4 in February. The Present Situation Index dipped to 115.6 from 116.8. The Expectations Index declined to 93.7 from 96.1 last month.

“Consumers are still quite confident despite recent increases in unemployment claims and rising prices at the gas pump,” says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center. “Their overall assessment of current economic conditions remains favorable and their short-term outlook suggests little change in the months ahead. In fact, while expectations have lost ground, consumers anticipate the job market will continue to improve, and easing employment concerns should help keep spending on track.”

Consumers’ overall assessment of current conditions remains quite favorable. Those claiming business conditions are “good” edged up to 25.8% from 24.6%, but those claiming conditions are “bad” also increased slightly to 16% from 15.7%. The employment picture was also mixed. Consumers saying jobs are “hard to get” rose to 23.8% from 22.4%, while those claiming jobs are “plentiful” improved to 21.3% from 21.1%.

Consumers’ outlook for the next six months eased further in March. Those anticipating business conditions to improve increased to 19.2% from 17.9%, but those expecting business conditions to worsen increased to 8.2% from 7.8%.

The outlook for the labor market improved in March. Those expecting more jobs to become available in the coming months was virtually unchanged at 15.1%. However, those expecting fewer jobs declined to 15.8% from 16.5%. The proportion of consumers anticipating their incomes to improve in the months ahead edged down to 16.7% from 18.7% last month.