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Every month, with its Consumer Confidence Index, the Conference Board offers a look into how Americans currently view the economy. Like many other economic indicators these days, this one has been showing lots of volatility. For this month, the index rose 6.2 points to 68.1 compared with a revised 61.9 in March. But the April gain just took back what had been lost in March, when the index fell by 5.8 points. This up-and-down pattern has been going on for the past five months. Moreover, the index remains at recessionary levels.
According to Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board:
“Consumer Confidence improved in April, as consumers’ expectations about the short-term economic outlook and their income prospects improved. However, consumers’ confidence has been challenged several times over the past few months by such events as the fiscal cliff, the payroll tax hike and the sequester. Thus, while expectations appear to have bounced back, it is too soon to tell if confidence is actually on the mend.”
Those surveyed who said business conditions are “good” rose to 17.2 percent from 16.4 percent March, while those saying they are “bad” decreased to 28.1 percent from 29.1 percent. Consumers had a mixed view of the labor market. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” rose to 9.8 percent from 9.5 percent. But those saying they are “hard to get” increased to a six-month high, from 35.4 percent in March to to 37.1 percent April. That's not encouraging news from Friday's monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On the other hand, again with the mixed readings, consumers who expect there will be more jobs in the months ahead rose to 14.2 percent from 13.0 percent and those expecting fewer jobs fell to 22.4 percent from 26.0 percent.
Meanwhile, what analysts consider a key barometer of the economy, the Chicago Purchasing Manager Index or Chicago PMI, took a dive of 3.4 points to 49.0. Anything below 50 means contraction. The April drop follows on a drop in March of 4.4 points. On the other hand, which ought to qualify as the most common introductory phrase on the economy these days, new orders were up two-tenths of a percent. That offers some hope that the Chicago PMI will not remain in negative territory.