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Alexa Harrison/MEDILL

Consumer confidence has risen consecutively since November 2009. The index hit an all-time low in February 2009.

Consumer confidence rises, but still wary of job market

by Alexa Harrison
Jan 26, 2010

The Consumer Confidence Index rose in January for the third consecutive month, surpassing economists’ forecasts.

But the Conference Board, a not-for-profit business research organization that releases the survey, cautions that the short-term positive outlook does not mean there will be a significant boost to the economy in the coming months.

The index increased in January to 55.9 from December’s 53.6. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected 53.5.

The Consumer Confidence Survey, conducted by research company Taylor Nelson Sofres, takes a representative sample of 5,000 homes in the U.S every month. All national figures are seasonally adjusted and the base of the index is 1985, which equals 100.

Consumers' assessment of present-day conditions was more positive in January, and consumers' income prospects were less dire, but there are still more pessimists than optimists.

“It’s still indicative of a very pessimistic consumer,” said Ryan Wang, an economist with HSBC Securities USA Inc. "Until the unemployment rate shows more significant improvement, which we think is unlikely in 2010, consumers are likely to hold onto their negative perceptions of the job market.”

There was an increase to 9 percent from 7.5 percent of consumers who thought business was “good.” Consumers who perceived business conditions as “bad” increased to 46.1 percent from 45.7 percent last month.

"We really weren't that surprised. It's still very, very low,” said economist Mark Vitner of Wells Fargo Securities LLC's Charlotte office.  “Folks are still worried about employment prospects."

However, the survey reveals that consumers believe the labor market improved slightly overall. The percentage of those who believe jobs are “hard to get” to 47.4 from 48.1 percent. Those that claimed jobs are “plentiful” increased to 4.3 percent from 3.1 percent.

The Consumer Confidenc Index in the East North Central Region, composed of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, increased to 52.6 from 47.9 in December. Although the January index lagged the national figure, the month-to-month rise was greater.