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United States Consumer Confidence October 2018

United States: Consumer confidence rises in October following September’s downward revision

Consumer confidence rose to its highest level in 18 years in October. The Conference Board’s monthly consumer confidence index jumped from September’s downwardly revised 135.3 to 137.9 in October, beating market expectations of 136.3 but undershooting September’s previously reported print of 138.4. The index thus remained well above the 100-point threshold that separates consumer optimism from pessimism and nears the all-time record high of 144.7 registered in January and May 2000.

Both the present situation and the expectations indices increased in October, signaling consumers were more optimistic about current conditions as well as the near-term economic outlook. Regarding the present situation, the share of consumers describing business conditions as “good” increased, while the share describing them as “bad” decreased. A closely watched indicator to assess labor market conditions, the labor differential—the difference between the percentage of respondents who state that jobs are plentiful and those who say that jobs are hard to get—also improved from a revised 30 in September (previously reported: 32.5) to 32.7 in October.

Regarding consumers’ assessment of business conditions in the next six months, the share of respondents expecting an improvement increased, while the share expecting a deterioration decreased. Their outlook on the labor market was slightly more mixed though improving overall, as the proportion of consumers expecting fewer jobs in the future decreased, but the proportion expecting more jobs also decreased—albeit marginally. A similar dynamic was at play with consumers’ personal income prospects: the share of respondents expecting an improvement rose, but so did the share expecting a decrease—an interesting development given the 50-year low unemployment rate as of September.

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