NEW YORK-An increase in consumer pessimism drove the consumer confidence index down 8.3 points this month, to 59.7, reversing a healthy gain in February.
According to The Conference Board, which provides the monthly indicator based on a survey of consumer attitudes, both of the component indexes fell in March. The expectations index dropped 11.5 points to 60.9, while the present situation index decreased 3.5 points to 57.9.
Lynn Franco, The Conference Board’s director of economic indicators, said the sequester crisis in Washington was a key factor in depressing consumers’ views of the economic environment. “The recent sequester has created uncertainty regarding the economic outlook and, as a result, consumers are less confident,” Franco said.
Consumers’ appraisals of both the economy’s current shape and the outlook ahead portrayed their increasingly doubtful outlook. The percentages of consumers who said current and future economic conditions are good fell, while those rating both current and future business conditions as bad rose.
Consumers assessment of the labor market was mixed in the March survey. The percentage of those saying jobs now are “plentiful” declined, but so did the percentage of those saying jobs are “hard to get.” Looking ahead, the percentage of those expecting more jobs fell, while the percentage of those predicting fewer jobs rose.