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Consumer Confidence Index Climbs In March

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index improved in March, as complared with February’s Confidence Index, which had edged down. The Index now stands at 82.3 (1985=100), up from 78.3 in February. The Present Situation Index edged down to 80.4 from 81.0, while the Expectations Index increased to 83.5 from 76.5.

“Consumer confidence improved in March, as expectations for the short-term outlook bounced back from February’s decline,” said Lynn Franco, director/economic indicators at The Conference Board. “While consumers were moderately more upbeat about future job prospects and the overall economy, they were less optimistic about income growth. The Present Situation index, which had been on an upward trend for the past four months, was relatively unchanged in March. Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions didn’t change much in March. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased to 22.9% from 21.2%; however, those claiming business conditions are “bad” also rose, to 23.2% from 22.0%. Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was relatively unchanged. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased marginally to 13.1% from 13.4%, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” increased slightly to 33.0% from 32.4%.

Consumers’ expectations, which also fell last month, rebounded in March as well. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 18.1% from 17.3%, while those anticipating business conditions to worsen declined to 10.2% from 13.6%. Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also moderately more optimistic. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead edged up to 13.9% from 13.7%, while those expecting fewer jobs fell to 18.0% from 20.9%. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to grow declined to 14.9% from 15.8%, but those anticipating a decline in their incomes also decreased, to 12.1% from 13.4%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, is based on a probability-design random sample. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was March 14.