The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased in January, fell moderately in February. The index now stands at 78.1 (1985=100), down from 79.4 in January. The decline was driven by the Expectations Index, which dropped to 75.7 from 80.8. The Present Situation Index, by contrast, climbed from 77.3 to 81.7.

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions improved for the fourth consecutive month. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased to 21.5% from 20.8%, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” declined to 22.6% from 23.4%. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market also improved. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” increased to 13.9% from 12.5%, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” decreased slightly to 32.5% from 32.7%. 

Consumers’ expectations, which had been improving over the past two months, retreated in February. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 16.3% from 17.0%, while those anticipating business conditions to worsen increased to 13.3% from 12.2%.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also more pessimistic. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 13.3% from 15.1%, while those anticipating fewer jobs increased to 20.6% from 19.0%. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase declined from 16.6% to 15.4%, but those anticipating a decrease in their incomes also declined, from 13.9% to 13.1%.

“Consumer confidence declined moderately in February, on concern over the short-term outlook for business conditions, jobs, and earnings,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “While expectations have fluctuated over recent months, current conditions have continued to trend upward and the Present Situation Index is now at its highest level in almost six years (April 2008, 81.9). This suggests that consumers believe the economy has improved, but they do not foresee it gaining considerable momentum in the months ahead.”

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 preliminary results was February 13.