Video: Sunnier sentiment

updated 4/27/2004 10:57:27 AM ET 2004-04-27T14:57:27

Consumer confidence improved strongly in April, helped by a brightening job picture, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.

The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 92.9, up from a revised 88.5 in March, the New York-based group said. That was better than the 88.5 that analysts had expected.

Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center, said the improvement was sparked by a more favorable assessment of current business and labor market conditions and increased consumer optimism about the next six months.

“The job market, which has a major impact on confidence, appears to be gaining strength,” she said. “The percentage of consumers claiming jobs are hard to get is now at its lowest level since November 2002, and more consumers expect this trend to continue.”

Economists closely follow consumer confidence because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States.

The Present Situations index, a component of the confidence index that seeks to measure consumers’ assessment of current conditions, rose to 90.6 from 84.4. The Expectations Index, which seeks to gauge their outlook for six months from now, increased to 94.5 from 91.3.

Consumers saying business conditions have improved rose to 21.4 percent, up from 20.7 percent. Those claiming conditions have worsened declined to 22.0 percent from 23.1 percent. Consumers claiming jobs are “hard to get” fell to 27.6 percent from 29.9 percent. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” increased to 15.8 percent from 14.7 percent.

Consumers’ optimism about the next six months improved for the first time this year. Those expecting business conditions to improve in the next six months edged up to 20.5 percent from 19.5 percent. Consumers expecting conditions to worsen dipped to 9.3 percent from 9.7 percent.

The employment outlook also was more favorable. Those anticipating more jobs to become available in the next six months increased to 18.2 percent from 15.7 percent. Those expecting fewer jobs was virtually unchanged at 17.5 percent. Consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 17.0 percent from 18.0 percent last month.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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