Consumer Confidence in U.S. Unexpectedly Falls to Six-Month Low

  • Conference Board index drops on souring job-market attitudes
  • Expectations measure decreases to lowest since February 2014

Consumer confidence in U.S. unexpectedly fell in May to the lowest level in six months amid concerns that jobs are more difficult to find, a report from the New York-based Conference Board showed on Tuesday.

Key Points

  • Index fell to 92.6, the lowest since November, from a revised 94.7 in April; median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists was 96.1
  • Measure of consumer expectations for the next six months fell to 79, the lowest since February 2014 from 79.7
  • Gauge of present conditions dropped to 112.9, also a six-month low, from 117.1

Big Picture

Growing concerns about employment, which had been the strongest part of the U.S. economy, would make it difficult to sustain the pickup in spending seen at the start of the second quarter. Still, the survey also showed more households this month expected to buy automobiles and homes in the next six months, indicating souring attitudes had yet to influence buying patters.

Economist Takeaways

  • “Consumers remain cautious about the outlook for business and labor market conditions,” Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “Thus, they continue to expect little change in economic activity in the months ahead.”
  • “The juxtaposition between the robust consumer spending figures and the softer confidence numbers released on the very same day is especially hard to reconcile, but I come down on the side of the spending figures, as it always make sense to follow the actual dollars,” Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities LLC in New York, said in a research note.

The Details

  • Share of Americans who said jobs were currently hard to find rose to 24.4 percent from 22.8 percent
  • The share saying jobs were plentiful was little changed at 24.3 percent compared with 24.2 percent
  • Share of Americans who see greater job availability in the next six months was also little changed at 12.8 percent from 12.7 percent in April
  • About 16.2 percent projected incomes will increase in the next six months, up from 15.8 percent in April
  • Buying plans improved for automobiles and homes, but declined for appliances
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