Consumers Remain Mostly Pessimistic in March

April 2, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Financial Services | Retail & E-Commerce

Consumer confidence levels, which hit an all-time low in February, remained essentially flat in March 2009 as the Consumer Confidence Index rose ever-so-slightly to 26.0 from 25.3 and one of its two individual components declined, reports Retailer Daily.

The index, based on the Conference Board‘s Consumer Confidence Survey, consists of the Present Situation Index, which decreased from 22.3 in February to 21.5 in March, and the Expectations Index, which rose from 27.3 in February to 28.9 in March. Brief highlights from each index follow.

Present Situation Index

The percentage of consumers rating current business conditions as “bad” increased during the past month, from 50.5% to 51.1%. The percentage of consumers rating current business conditions as “good” fractionally declined from 7% to 6.8%. More consumers now think jobs are hard to get, as the percentage of consumers expressing this opinion increased from 46.9% in February to 48.7% in March. The percentage of consumers finding jobs “plentiful” remained at 4.6%.


Expectations Index

Consumers were still pessimistic in March about economic conditions in the next six months, but mostly less so than in February. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to get worse in the next six months dropped from 40.7% to 39.1%, while the percentage of consumers expecting an improvement in business conditions in the next six months increased from 8.5% to 9.1%.


In the area of employment, 42.6% of consumers now expecting fewer jobs in the next jobs, compared to 47% in February. However, only 7.5% of consumers now expect their incomes to increase in the next six months, compared to 7.9% in February.

While any increase in the Consumer Confidence Index is positive for US retailers, this month’s results are mixed as overall improvement was less than a full percentage point from last month’s all-time low. There have been a number of mixed positive and negative economic and consumer behavior signals so far this year.

Positive signals:

  • Online shopping activity is showing signs of improvement.
  • The U.S. trade deficit shrank in January 2009, although declining consumer demand drove the reduction.
  • Personal spending of U.S. consumers increased in February 2009.
  • The Restaurant Performance Index rose slightly in February 2009.

Negative signals:

  • The US GDP shrank 6.3% in Q4 2008.
  • Total spending for the Easter holiday is expected to decline.
  • Mexico applied retaliatory tariffs to 89 U.S. products in March 2009.
  • US retail and food services sales fell in February 2009.
  • US unemployment hit 8.1% in February 2009.

About the survey: The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 US households and is conducted for The Conference Board by TNS. The cutoff date for March’s preliminary results was March 24th.

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