Consumers' Spirits Head South, Conference Board Index Shows

Compiled By Jill Jusko Mixed economic news has consumers' moods just as mixed, show data from the Conference Board's latest Consumer Confidence Index. After rebounding in November the index dipped more than four points to 80.3 in December. "The major factor dampening consumers' spirits has been the rising unemployment rate and the discouraging job outlook," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "Until there is an improvement in labor market conditions, there is not likely to be a significant upturn in consumer confidence." The index compares monthly results with 1985, when the average index stood at 100. It is based on results from a monthly survey of 5,000 U.S. households. Consumers were more pessimistic in December about current conditions, with the Present Situation Index dipping to 69.9 from 78.3. Just 14.6% of households surveyed rated current conditions as "good," versus 16.1% in November. On the plus side, there was an incremental increase in the percentage of survey respondents who expect business conditions to improve in the next six months, up to 20.8% from 20.3%. However, the percentage of consumers expecting fewer jobs in the coming months rose to 20.2% from 18.8%, while those expecting more jobs dropped to 15.1% from 15.4%. The New York-based Conference Board is a business research and membership organization.

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