American consumers are more confident about the strength of the national economy, according to new data from The Conference Board. Following an April decline, the research firm’s closely-watched index that measures consumer confidence rose to its second-highest level in six years this month. Optimism about the labor market and potential income gains helped send The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index upward from 81.7 points in April to 83 points in May. The current month’s reading was the second-highest since January 2008 and only just behind March’s 83.9 tally.
While the confidence index is yet to climb to pre-recession heights that typically topped 90, it is well above last year’s average of 72.3 and far beyond its lowest reading – 25.3 in February of 2009. “Despite last month’s decline, consumers’ confidence appears to be growing,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Expectations regarding the short-term outlook for the economy, jobs and personal finances were more upbeat.”
As for the labor market, consumers anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 15.4% in May from 14.7% last month. At the same time, consumer assessments of the current labor market improved, with the percentage of those claiming jobs are “plentiful” rising to 14.1% from 13%. Meanwhile, the proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to grow increased to 18.3% from 16.8%. Still that news was tempered by the fact that the number of people anticipating a drop in their incomes also increased, to 14.5% from 12.9%.