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Think Tank Finds Consumer Confidence Improved Again in December

December 22, 2021 by Dan McCue
Think Tank Finds Consumer Confidence Improved Again in December
A shopper shops at a retail store in Glenview, Ill., Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

NEW YORK — Despite concerns over well-publicized supply chain bottlenecks and a surging omicron variant of the coronavirus, consumer confidence grew in December, The Conference Board reported Wednesday.

The not-for-profit, non-advocacy think tank said its proprietary Consumer Confidence Index now stands at 115.8, up from a measurement of 111.9 in November.

Though consumers said they see the current state of the economy as relatively flat, their expectations for the future are decidedly positive, with the Conference Board’s Expectations Index rising to 96.9 from 90.2 in November.

“Consumer confidence improved further in December, following a very modest gain in November,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, in a written statement. 

“The Present Situation Index dipped slightly but remains very high, suggesting the economy has maintained its momentum in the final month of 2021,” Franco said. “Expectations about short-term growth prospects improved, setting the stage for continued growth in early 2022.”

Notably, the Conference Board’s analysis found the proportion of consumers planning to purchase homes, automobiles, major appliances, and vacations over the next six months all increased.

“Meanwhile, concerns about inflation declined after hitting a 13-year high last month as did concerns about COVID-19, despite reports of continued price increases and the emergence of the omicron variant,” Franco said. “Looking ahead to 2022, both confidence and consumer spending will continue to face headwinds from rising prices and an expected winter surge of the pandemic.”

Present Situation

Consumers’ appraisal of current business conditions was more favorable in December.

  • 19.9% of consumers said business conditions were “good,” up from 17.9%;
  • 26.8% of consumers said business conditions were “bad,” down from 27.3%.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was moderately less favorable.

  • 55.1% of consumers said jobs were “plentiful,” down from 55.5%; still a historically strong reading;
  • 12.5% of consumers said jobs are “hard to get,” up from 10.8%.

Expectations for the Next Six Months 

Consumers’ optimism about the short-term business conditions outlook increased in December, The Conference Board said.

  • 26.7% of consumers expect business conditions will improve, up from 25.6%;
  • 17.9% expect business conditions to worsen, down from 19.6%.

Consumers were also more optimistic about the short-term labor market outlook.

  • 25.1% of consumers expect more jobs to be available in the months ahead, up from 22.8%;
  • 14.8% anticipate fewer jobs, down from 19%.

Consumers were slightly less positive about their short-term financial prospects.

  • 18% of consumers expect their incomes to increase, down from 18.9%;
  • 11.5% expect their incomes will decrease, down slightly from 11.7%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey is based on an online sample surveyed by Toluna, a technology company that delivers real-time consumer insights and market research. The cutoff date for the latest results was December 16.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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