Uncertainty about long-term economic conditions combined with the winter blues to lower consumer confidence in February.
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index slipped to 78.1 this month from January’s level of 79.4, a figure that was revised downward from 80.7. The decline was wholly attributable to a slip in the Expectations Index, which fell to 75.7 from 80.8 last month, while the Present Situation Index ascended to 81.7, its highest level since it hit 81.9 in April 2008, from 77.3 a month ago.
“While expectations have fluctuated over recent months, current conditions have continued to trend upward and the Present Situation Index is now at its highest level in almost six years,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “This suggests that consumers believe the economy has improved, but they do not foresee it gaining considerable momentum in the months ahead.”
The slip in the index in February came after moderate improvements in December and January. After hitting 72 in November, in the aftermath of the government shutdown, it rose to 77.5 in December before hitting 79.4 in January. Its highest level in the past 12 months was 82.1 in June and its lowest 61.9 in March.
While the percentage of respondents expecting jobs to become more plentiful in the next six months dropped to 13.3 from 15.1, those expecting fewer openings rose to 20.6 from 19. Those expecting job prospects to remain relatively unchanged rose to 66.1 percent from 65.9.
The index continued to show sharp differences based on respondents’ ages. Among those 55 and over, it dropped to 62 from 68.9 in January. Those in the range of 35 to 54 years were more upbeat, registering at 81.6 versus 80.2. Those under 35 remained most positive, with their index reading jumping over 10 points to 109.5 from 99.3 last month.