The two major surveys used to measure consumer confidence, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey, offered conflicting opinions on consumers’ assessment of future economic conditions. The CCI showed consumers becoming slightly more optimistic about future economic activity while the University of Michigan survey’s expected conditions component plunged 13.6% to its lowest level since March 2009. Nonetheless, respondents in both surveys appeared united by giving decidedly negative appraisals of current economic conditions. This indicates that consumers continue to feel the strain from what remains a lackluster economic recovery.
The well-documented struggles of the labor market are having a significant influence on consumers’ perceptions of current economic conditions. A meager total of 18,000 new jobs were added on net during June and employment growth has averaged ~126,000 per month since January. This is well below the pace of new job creation needed to bring down the unemployment rate, which itself climbed to 9.2% last month. According to the CCI, 44.1% of respondents indicated jobs were hard to get and 21.8% reported that they expect fewer jobs to be available in 6 months.