After a sharp decline in February, consumer confidence inched up in March, from 25.3 to 26, according to The Conference Board, a nonprofit economic research and analysis group based in New York. February marked the lowest level in consumer confidence since the index was created in 1967.
But that slight gain is tempered by other findings of the monthly report, including the fact that consumers consider current economic conditions even less favorable than they did last month. The Present Situation Index fell to 21.5 in March from 22.3 in February.
“The Present Situation Index suggests that the overall state of the economy remains weak and that more job losses are on the horizon. Apprehension about the outlook for the economy, the labor market and earnings continues to weigh heavily on consumers’ attitudes,” says Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.
The percentage of consumers calling business conditions “bad” rose to 51.1% in March from 50.5% in February, while those claiming that business conditions are “good” dipped to 6.8% from 7%.
Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market also was somewhat more pessimistic in March. The percentage of consumers saying jobs are “hard to get” increased to 48.7% from 46.9% in February. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” was unchanged at 4.6%.
Consumers’ short–term outlook was a little less negative in March. Consumers expecting business conditions to worsen during the next six months edged down to 39.1% from 40.7% in February. Those expecting conditions to improve increased to 9.1% in March from 8.5% the previous month.
The employment outlook also was slightly less pessimistic. The percentage of consumers expecting fewer jobs in the months ahead decreased to 42.6% from 47%. Those expecting more jobs edged up to 7.1% in March from 6.8% in February.
The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. In the monthly survey 1985=100.