The Conference Board said that consumer sentiment waned again in February, with Americans nervous in their economic outlook. The Consumer Confidence Index dropped from 97.8 in January to 92.2 in February, its lowest level in seven months. Since June of last year, these data have been highly volatile, ranging from a low of 91.0 in July to 102.6 in September, with the latter being the second-highest reading since the recession. (The index peaked at a post-recessionary high of 103.8 in January 2015.) The high degree of change from month-to-month indicates just how anxious the public is right now, with recent financial market volatility likely dampening perceptions in this report. In February, consumers were less upbeat in their assessments of the current (down from 85.3 to 78.9) and future (down from 116.6 to 112.1) economy.
Respondents to this survey are often swayed by pocketbook issues, including worries about labor market prospects, and this release is no different. The percentage of those completing the survey suggesting that jobs were “plentiful” declined from 23.0 percent to 22.1 percent, with those saying that jobs were “hard to get” rising from 23.6 percent to 24.2 percent. In a similar fashion, the percent expecting their incomes to increase in the coming months decreased from 18.6 percent to 17.2 percent, with those predicting declining incomes increasing from 10.7 percent to 12.5 percent.