Mixed Readings on Consumer Confidence in October


Consumer confidence remained at levels close to the darkest days of the Great Recession, but there was some disagreement among the two most frequently used measures about where confidence is rising or falling. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) and the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey showed consumer confidence moving in opposite directions during October. The University of Michigan survey indicating consumers were a bit more confident about current and future economic conditions than they were in September. In contrast, the CCI registered sizeable declines in both of these components. Despite the conflicting results, respondents to both surveys offered poor assessments of the current state of the economy and where it is headed.

With the debt ceiling debate now well in the rearview mirror, labor market conditions, gas prices and equities should more noticeably influence consumer confidence. Gas prices edged lower and the S&P 500 gained considerable ground during October, but the labor market was less glowing. Although 103,000 new jobs were created on net in September, and a total of 99,000 jobs were added to the previous two months of data, job growth remains below what is necessary to reduce the ranks of the unemployed and put upward pressure on wages. Indeed, a mere 3.4% of respondents to the CCI agreed that jobs were plentiful currently and only 11.3% believed that jobs would be plentiful 6 months from now. Both categories from the CCI are at their lowest levels in at least a year.

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