Consumer Confidence Inches Up in March

shopper shopping as consumer confidence rises
shopper shopping as consumer confidence rises

Consumers gave a thumbs up when it came to their economic outlook in March, despite a lackluster belief that their incomes would increase, according to the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index released Tuesday.

The index rose to 52.5 in March, rebounding from 46.4 last month. Even though consumers may applaud the results, it's still not as good as in January, when the index stood at 56.5. Why the seesaw attitude?

"Despite this month's increase, consumers continue to express concern about current business and labor market conditions. And, their outlook for the next six months is still rather pessimistic. Overall, consumer confidence levels have not changed significantly since last spring," Lynn Franco, Conference Board director, said in a statement.


Let's first look at John and Jane Doe's pocketbook. Of the 5,000 U.S. households surveyed, 10.5% of these consumers expected to see an increase in their incomes, compared with 10.1% last month. That may in part explain a bump up in spending.

Mr. & Mrs. Doe and their friends are also expecting an improved labor market, with 21.6% expecting fewer jobs in the months ahead, an improvement from the previous month when that figure stood at 24.7%.

In step with those labor market results is also an attitude that the degree of difficultly in landing a job has eased somewhat but jobs are still far from being "plentiful." According to the report, 45.8% of folks surveyed believed jobs were "hard to get," verses 47.3% the previous month. And the jobs-are-plentiful group were a mere 4.4%, a slight move up from 4% last month.

But more importantly, where do consumers think things will be six months from now -- right as retail companies are ramping up for the holiday selling season?

According to the Conference Board survey, 18.3% anticipate an improvement, up from 16.1% last month.

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