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First Cut: Consumer confidence swings lower in March on both present conditions and six-month expectations

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index declined 7.3 points to 124.1 in March after 131.4 in February. The drop reflected a substantial decline of 12.2 points in present conditions to 160.6 in March, its lowest reading since 157.5 in April 2018. The six-month expectations index fell 4.0 points to 99.8 in March, erasing much of the rebound to 103.8 in February. The March reading is by no means a weak one and shows consumers remain quite confident in the economy, if with less strength and consistency than in much of 2018.

Consumers’ perceptions of the present were down sharply for both business conditions and employment, and expected employment. Business conditions six months from now were lower as well. The only positive contribution to the Consumer Confidence Index was from expected personal income which is anticipated to rise slightly in the future.

The decline in confidence in the job market — both present and future — may be due to the maturity of the expansion and the difficulties in bringing those workers remaining on the margins back into the workforce.

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