The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had decreased in February, improved in March. The index now stands at 101.3 (1985=100), up from 98.8 in February. The Expectations Index increased from 90.0 last month to 96.0 in March. The Present Situation Index, however, decreased from 112.1 in February to 109.1 in March.
Consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions turned moderately less favorable for a second straight month. The percentage saying business conditions are “good” was unchanged at 26.7% while those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased from 16.7% to 19.4%.
Consumers were mixed in their assessment of the job market. The proportion stating jobs are “plentiful” edged up from 20.3% to 20.6%, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” also edged up from 25.1% to 25.4%.
Consumers’ optimism about the short-term outlook, which had declined last month, rebounded in March. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased slightly, from 17.6% to 16.7%; however, those expecting business conditions to worsen also fell, from 8.9% to 8.0%.
Consumers’ outlook for the labor market saw stronger gains. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased from 13.8% to 15.5%, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined from 14.8% to 13.5%. The proportion of consumers expecting growth in their incomes improved from 16.4% to 18.4%, while the proportion expecting a drop declined from 10.8% to 9.9%.
“Consumer confidence improved in March after retreating in February,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “This month’s increase was driven by an improved short-term outlook for both employment and income prospects. Consumers were less upbeat about business conditions. Consumers’ assessment of current conditions declined for the second consecutive month, suggesting that growth may have softened in Q1 and doesn’t appear to be gaining any significant momentum heading into the spring months.”
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 March 19.