The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® declined in March, after increasing in February. The Index now stands at 124.1 (1985=100), down from 131.4 in February. The Present Situation Index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – declined, from 172.8 to 160.6. The Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – decreased from 103.8 last month to 99.8 this month.
“Consumer Confidence decreased in March after rebounding in February, with the Present Situation the main driver of this month’s decline,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Confidence has been somewhat volatile over the past few months, as consumers have had to weather volatility in the financial markets, a partial government shutdown and a very weak February jobs report. Despite these dynamics, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue expanding in the near term. However, the overall trend in confidence has been softening since last summer, pointing to a moderation in economic growth.”
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 14.
Consumers’ assessment of current conditions declined in March. The percentage of consumers stating business conditions are “good” decreased from 40.6 percent to 33.4 percent, while those saying business conditions are “bad” increased from 11.1 percent to 13.6 percent. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was less upbeat. Those stating jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 45.7 percent to 42.0 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” increased from 11.7 percent to 13.7 percent.
Consumers’ optimism about the short-term future moderated in March. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions will improve over the next six months declined from 19.6 percent to 17.7 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen remained relatively flat, 9.3 percent versus 9.2 percent last month.
Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was less favorable. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead decreased from 19.0 percent to 16.4 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs increased from 12.3 percent to 13.4 percent. Regarding their short-term income prospects, the percentage of consumers expecting an improvement rose slightly, from 20.6 percent to 21.0 percent, while the proportion expecting a decrease declined, from 8.3 percent to 7.6 percent.
Source: March 2019 Consumer Confidence Survey®
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.