Consumer confidence surges in March

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, after a small dip in February, surged in March. The Index climbed more than 15 points to 110.2 (1985=100), up from 95.0 in February. Both key barometers increased. The Present Situation Index rose from 96.4 to 111.5. The Expectations Index increased from 94.0 to 109.3.

“Consumers’ confidence has been bolstered by the improvement in business and labor market conditions,” Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center, said in a statement. “The latest gains are striking. The jump in the Present Situation Index is the largest gain experienced in 25 years, while the Expectations Index has not risen this sharply in nearly a decade. This new boom in confidence should translate into increased consumer spending and stronger economic growth ahead.”

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions improved significantly in March. Those rating business conditions as “good” increased from 17.6% to 20.7%. Consumers rating current business conditions as “bad” dropped from 22.8% 18.1%. Consumers reporting jobs were “plentiful” rose from 18.2% to 20.6%. Those claiming jobs were “hard to get” fell from 22.6% to 20.8%.

Consumers’ expectations for the next six months are also more upbeat. Those expecting an improvement in business conditions increased from 22.3% to 25%. Those anticipating conditions to worsen declined from 11.1% to 6.3%.

The employment outlook has also brightened. Some 20.6% of all consumers expect more jobs to become available over the next six months, up from 18.3% last month. Those expecting fewer jobs fell from 19.5% to 13.6%. About 22% expect their incomes to increase, up from 20.5% in February.

The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. The monthly survey is conducted for The Conference Board by NFO WorldGroup, a member of The Interpublic Group of Companies.