The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased in February, improved sharply in March.
The Index now stands at 125.6 (1985=100), up from 116.1 in February. The Present Situation Index rose from 134.4 to 143.1 and the Expectations Index increased from 103.9 last month to 113.8.
The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was March 16.
"Consumer confidence increased sharply in March to its highest level since December 2000 (Index, 128.6)," said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "Consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved considerably. Consumers also expressed much greater optimism regarding the short-term outlook for business, jobs and personal income prospects. Thus, consumers feel current economic conditions have improved over the recent period, and their renewed optimism suggests the possibility of some upside to the prospects for economic growth in the coming months."
Consumers' appraisal of current conditions improved considerably in March. The percentage saying business conditions are "good" increased from 28.3 percent to 32.2 percent, while those saying business conditions are "bad" decreased from 13.4 percent to 12.9 percent. Consumers' assessment of the labor market was also more positive. The percentage of consumers stating jobs are "plentiful" rose from 26.9 percent to 31.7 percent, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" decreased moderately, from 19.9 percent to 19.5 percent.
Consumers were also significantly more optimistic about the short-term outlook. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased from 23.9 percent to 27.1 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen declined from 10.5 percent to 8.4 percent.
Consumers' outlook for the labor market was also more upbeat. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased from 20.9 percent to 24.8 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined from 13.6 percent to 12.2 percent. The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase improved from 19.2 percent to 21.5 percent, while the proportion expecting a decrease declined from 8.1 percent to 7.0 percent.