In a switch from the Fla. sentiment index released the same day, Americans were more optimistic about current conditions in March – but less so about future conditions.
BOSTON – Americans grew a bit more optimistic in March, though the uptick is about the here-and-now more than expectations for the future. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index increased slightly this month, after a decrease in February.
The Index now stands at 107.2, up from 105.7 in February.
The Present Situation Index component of the broader index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – surged 10 points higher to 153.0 from last month’s 143.0. However, the Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term outlook six months in the future for income, business and labor market conditions – declined to 76.6 from 80.8.
“The Present Situation Index rose substantially, suggesting economic growth continued into late Q1,” says Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Expectations, on the other hand, weakened further with consumers citing rising prices, especially at the gas pump, and the war in Ukraine as factors. Meanwhile, purchasing intentions for big-ticket items like automobiles have softened somewhat over the past few months as expectations for interest rates have risen.
“Nevertheless, consumer confidence continues to be supported by strong employment growth and has been holding up remarkably well despite geopolitical uncertainties and expectations for inflation over the next 12 months reaching 7.9% – an all-time high. However, these headwinds are expected to persist in the short term and may potentially dampen confidence as well as cool spending further in the months ahead.”
Consumers’ appraisal of current business conditions improved in March:
- 19.6% of consumers said business conditions were “good,” up from 17.6%.
- 22.1% said business conditions were “bad,” down from 25.1%.
Assessment of the labor market:
- 57.2% said jobs were “plentiful,” up from 53.5% – a new historical high.
- 9.8% said jobs are “hard to get,” down from 12.0%.
Expectations six months from now
Consumers’ optimism about short-term business conditions:
- 18.7% expect business conditions to improve, down from 21.3%.
- 23.8% expect business conditions to worsen, up from 19.9%.
Attitudes were mixed about the short-term labor market outlook:
- 17.4% expect more jobs to be available in the months ahead, down from 19.4%.
- Conversely, 17.7% anticipate fewer jobs, down from 19.6%.
Consumers were also mixed about their short-term financial prospects:
- 14.9% expect their incomes to increase, up from 14.7%.
- 13.7% expect their incomes to decrease, up from 13.0%.
Toluna conducts the monthly Consumer Confidence Survey. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was March 23.
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