The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased in December, retreated in January. The index now stands at 61.1 (1985=100), down from 64.8 in December. The Present Situation Index declined to 38.4 from 46.5. The Expectations Index edged down to 76.2 from 77.0 in December.

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions was less favorable in January. Those claiming business conditions are “good” decreased to 13.3% from 16.3%, while those stating business conditions are “bad” increased to 38.7% from 33.5%. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was also less positive. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 6.1% from 6.6%, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” increased to 43.5% from 41.6%. 

Consumers’ short-term outlook was slightly weaker than it was last month. The proportion of consumers anticipating business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 16.6% from 16.8%, while those expecting business conditions will worsen increased to 15.1% from 13.4%.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market, however, was moderately more favorable. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased to 16.2% from 14.0%, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 19.5% from 20.2%. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes declined to 13.8% from 16.3%.

“Consumer confidence retreated in January, after large back-to-back gains in the final two months of 2011,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions turned more downbeat and is back to November 2011 levels. Regarding the short-term outlook, consumers are more upbeat about employment but less optimistic about business conditions and their income prospects. Recent increases in gasoline prices may have consumers feeling a little less confident this month.”

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for the Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the current report was January 19.