Consumer Confidence Improves Again

The New Year starts with some good news from the Conference Board. After two months of considerable gains, the Consumer Confidence Index is now back to levels seen last spring (April 2011, 66.0) with consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved again, reports Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had improved in November, increased further in December. The Index now stands at 64.5 (1985=100), up from 55.2 in November. The Present Situation Index increased to 46.7 from 38.3. The Expectations Index rose to 76.4 from 66.4.

"Looking ahead, consumers are more optimistic that business conditions, employment prospects, and their financial situations will continue to get better. While consumers are ending the year in a somewhat more upbeat mood, it is too soon to tell if this is a rebound from earlier declines or a sustainable shift in attitudes," Franco said.

Consumers' assessment of current conditions improved in December. Those stating business conditions are "good" increased to 16.6 percent from 13.9 percent, while those stating business conditions are "bad" declined to 33.9 percent from 38.0 percent. Consumers' assessment of the job market was also more positive. Those claiming jobs are "plentiful" increased to 6.7 percent from 5.6 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" decreased to 41.8 percent from 43.0 percent, the Conference Board said.

Consumers' short-term outlook also improved in December. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 16.7 percent from 13.7 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen declined to 13.4 percent from 16.1 percent.

Consumers' outlook for the job market was also more favorable, the Conference Board said.  Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 13.3 percent from 12.4 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 20.2 percent from 23.8 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes improved to 17.1 percent from 14.1 percent.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was December 14.

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