Confidence is high but job concerns linger
By Don Hogsett -- Home Textiles Today, 2/2/2004 12:00:00 AM
NEW YORK —
With Americans feeling good about the overall health of the nation's economy, and optimistic about what lies ahead over the next six months, consumer confidence hit its highest level in 18 months in January, The Conference Board reported.
Recovering from a dip the month before, the barometer of consumer sentiment climbed by 5.6 percent to a reading of 96.8, up from 91.7 in December.
"Consumer confidence is now at its highest level since July 2002, when the index registered 97.4," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "Growing optimism about the overall health of the economy continues to bolster consumers' short-term outlook."
Concerns about the job market still weigh heavily, she noted. "Consumers' assessment of current conditions, which strongly hinges on improvements in the labor market, remains both weak and volatile."
Consumers' assessment of present-day conditions is improving, but remains soft, The Conference Board noted.
Those describing business conditions as 'good' increased to 22 percent from 18.6 percent in December. Acting as a drag are lingering concerns about the labor market and a so-called jobless recovery. The number of consumers who say jobs are hard to get fell to 31.4 percent from 32.4 percent. But the number of Americans who claim jobs are plentiful dipped as well, slipping to 12.4 percent from 12.6 percent.
And the outlook only improves looking ahead. Consumers continue to grow more optimistic about the next six months. The number expecting business conditions to improve rose to 27.8 percent from 26.7 percent.
Consumer confidence by region
|East North Central||-7.2|
|West North Central||6.1|
|East South Central||23.2|
|West South Central||9.4|
Consumer Buying Plans — January
Plans to purchase over the next six months
|Source: The Conference Board
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