It was a bit surprising to see the overall Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) rise from 63.8 in March to 65.4 in April given the recent surge in gasoline prices. The Conference Board’s survey tends to put more weight on the employment situation, which is improving, than on other factors that influence consumer confidence. The present situation component of the CCI has been up for the past seven months. However, it remains relatively depressed at 39.6, which is still below the previous cyclical trough of 59.7 during September 2003.
The weakness in the present situation component this far into an economic recovery is unusual, but not surprising given that 4 out of 10 respondents agree that it is hard to get a job. The percentage of respondents saying that “jobs are hard to get” fell to 41.8% during April. That is the lowest reading since January 2009. The most recent cyclical peak in this series was 48.8% during November. The labor market is improving, but it is still hard to get a job.