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Consumer confidence decreases during May

Reflects worries about jobs and inflation

U.S. consumer confidence, which had improved in April, took a surprise drop in May as the labor market outlook turned more pessimistic and inflation worries rose, according to the monthly Consumer Confidence Index.

The Index now stands at 60.8, down from 66 in April. The Present Situation Index decreased to 39.3 from 40.2. The Expectations Index declined to 75.2 from 83.2 last month.

"A more pessimistic outlook is the primary reason for this month's decline in consumer confidence," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Consumers are considerably more apprehensive about future business and labor market conditions as well as their income prospects. Inflation concerns, which had eased last month, have picked up once again. On the other hand, consumers' assessment of current conditions declined only modestly, suggesting no significant pickup or deterioration in the pace of growth."

Consumers' assessment of current conditions, while still mixed, was somewhat less favorable than in April. Those claiming business conditions are "good" decreased to 14.6% from 15.5%, while those claiming business conditions are "bad" increased to 37.1% from 35.9%. Consumers' appraisal of the labor market was also less favorable than last month. Those stating jobs are "hard to get" increased to 43.9% from 42.4%, while those stating jobs are "plentiful" increased to 5.6% from 5.1%.

Consumers' short-term outlook, which had improved marginally in April, turned pessimistic in May. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months declined to 17% from 19.2%, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen increased to 15.5% from 14%.

Consumers were also pessimistic about the labor market outlook for the next six months. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 15.9% from 17.8%, while those anticipating fewer jobs increased to 20.8% from 18.7%. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes declined to 14.8% from 17%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by The Nielsen Company. The cutoff date for May's preliminary results was May 18.

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