Consumer Confidence Declines Sharply In February

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased in January, declined sharply in February. The Index now stands at 46.0 down from 56.5 in January. The Present Situation Index decreased to 19.4 from 25.2. The Expectations Index declined to 63.8 from 77.3 last month.

Concerns about current business conditions and the job market pushed the Present Situation Index down to its lowest level in 27 years,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board. “Consumers’ short-term outlook also took a turn for the worse, with fewer consumers anticipating an improvement in business conditions and the job market over the next six months. Consumers also remain extremely pessimistic about their income prospects. This combination of earnings and job anxieties is likely to continue to curb spending.”

Consumers’ assessment of current-day conditions soured in February. Those claiming conditions are “good” decreased to 6.2% from 8.5%, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased to 46.3% from 44.7%. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was also more pessimistic. Those saying jobs are “hard to get” rose to 47.7% from 46.5%, while those saying jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 3.6% from 4.4%.

Consumers’ short-term outlook, which had been improving, lost considerable ground in February. The percentage of consumers anticipating an improvement in business conditions over the next six months decreased to 16.7% from 20.7%, while those anticipating conditions will worsen increased to 15.3% from 12.7%.

Regarding the outlook for the labor market, the percentage of consumers expecting fewer jobs increased to 24.6% from 18.9%. Those anticipating more jobs will become available in the months ahead declined to 13.4%from 15.8%. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 9.5% from 11%.