Consumer Confidence Hits Five-Year Low

Consumer confidence took a nosedive this month, hitting its lowest level since March 2003, according to the Consumer Confidence Survey by The Conference Board.

The index is now at 64.5, down from 76.4 in February, the Consumer Confidence Index showed. The survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households and is conducted monthly.

Consumers’ outlook on business conditions, jobs and income prospects hinted that further weakening of the economy may be on the horizon, said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

The Expectations Index , a predictor of what may be in store for the economy, is at a 35-year low (47.9), a level not seen since 1973 when it was at 45.3, Franco said. From February to March, consumers claiming business conditions are "bad" increased from 21.3% to 25.4%, while those claiming business conditions are "good" declined from 19.1% to 15.4%.

Appraisal of the job market was also more pessimistic, as the number of consumers who said jobs are "hard to get" went from 23.4% to 25.1%. Those who claimed jobs are "plentiful" decreased from 21.5% to 18.8%, the Consumer Confidence Index showed. Consumers’ short-term expectations deteriorated, with 25.4% of consumers expecting business conditions to worsen over the next six months. In February, only 21.6% thought business conditions would worsen. Those anticipating business conditions to improve dropped from 9.7% to 8.1%.

The labor market outlook didn’t fare much better, as consumers expected fewer jobs in the months ahead. In February, 28% of consumers expected fewer jobs, while in March 29% expected fewer jobs. About 15% of consumers expected to see incomes increase, down from 18% in February.

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