The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had declined sharply in February, plummeted in March to 64.5 (1985=100), down from 76.4 in February, and is at a five-year low (March 2003, 61.4), according to the Conference Board.
The Expectations Index declined to 47.9 from 58.0 – a 35-year low (Dec. 1973, 45.2), “levels not seen since the Oil Embargo and Watergate,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.
The Present Situation Index decreased to 89.2 from 104.0, implying that “the pace of growth in recent months has weakened even further,” she said.
Among the data issued:
- Consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions weakened further in March:
- Those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased to 25.4% from 21.3% in February.
- Those claiming business conditions are “good” declined to 15.4% from 19.1%.
- Consumers’ appraisal of the job market was also more pessimistic than last month:
- Those saying jobs are “hard to get” rose to 25.1% from 23.4%.
- Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 18.8% from 21.5%.
- Consumers’ short-term expectations further deteriorated in March:
- Those expecting business conditions to worsen over the next six months increased to 25.4% from 21.6%.
- Those anticipating business conditions to improve declined to 8.1% from 9.7% in February.
- The outlook for the labor market was also more pessimistic:
- Consumers expecting fewer jobs in the months ahead increased to 29.0% from 28.0%.
- Those anticipating more jobs declined to 7.7% from 8.9%.
- The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase declined to 14.9% from 18.0%.
About the data: The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. The monthly survey is conducted for The Conference Board by TNS. The cutoff date for March’s preliminary results was March 18.