Consumer Confidence Softens In October

Consumer sentiment dipped slightly in October, following a sharp increase in September. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index now stands at 100.9, down from 101.3 in September.

The Conference Board’s Present Situation Index, based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions, increased from 98.9 to 104.6 in October. However, its Expectations Index, based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions, decreased from 102.9 in September to 98.4 this month.

“Consumer confidence declined slightly in October, following a sharp improvement in September,” says Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved while expectations declined, driven primarily by a softening in the short-term outlook for jobs. There is little to suggest that consumers foresee the economy gaining momentum in the final months of 2020, especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise and unemployment still high.”

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was October 16.

Data from the Consumer Confidence Survey, conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, does show that consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved further in October. The percentage of consumers claiming business conditions are “good” remained virtually unchanged from September, going from 17.6 percent to 17.5 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” decreased from 37 percent to 33.9 percent. And consumers’ assessment of the labor market was favorable. The share of survey respondents saying jobs are “plentiful” increased from 23.6 percent to 26.5 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” decreased slightly from 20.3 percent to 19.9 percent.

However, the data shows that consumers have grown less optimistic about the short-term outlook from one month to the next. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions will improve over the next six months decreased slightly from 36.7 percent to 36.3 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen increased from 15.8 percent to 17 percent. Consumers’ optimism regarding the job market was mixed. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased slightly from 32.9 percent to 33.2 percent, but those anticipating fewer jobs also increased, from 16.1 percent to 20.2 percent. Regarding their short-term income prospects, the percentage of consumers expecting an increase improved from 17.3 percent to 18.4 percent, but the share expecting a decrease also increased, from 13 percent to 14.2 percent.

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