Conference Board: Consumer confidence declines 8 points in March

The topsy-turvy world of consumer confidence took dip in March, as the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had improved in February, declined in March. The Index now stands at 59.7, down from 68.0 in February.

Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said the March retreat was driven primarily by a sharp decline in expectations, although consumers were also more pessimistic in their assessment of current conditions.

“The loss of confidence, particularly expectations, mirrors the losses experienced this past December and January,” Franco said. “The recent sequester has created uncertainty regarding the economic outlook and as a result, consumers are less confident.”

Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions also declined in March. Those saying business conditions are “good” decreased to 16.0% from 17.6%, while those stating business conditions are “bad” increased to 29.3% from 28.2%.

Their assessment of the labor market was mixed. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 9.4% from 10.1%, but those claiming jobs are “hard to get” edged down to 36.2% from 36.9%.

According to the Conference Board, consumers are once again pessimistic about the short-term outlook. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 14.4% from 18.0%, while those anticipating business conditions to worsen increased to 18.3% from 16.6%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a global provider of information and analytics. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was March 14.

The next release is scheduled for Tuesday, April 30.