- THE MAGAZINE
The Conference Board's gauge of consumer confidence fell to 90.5 from October's 92.9, the private business group said, and well under economists' average November forecast for 96.5.
While the present situation index edged up to 95.2 from 94.0, the expectations index declined to 87.4 from 92.2.
"Consumers are feeling a little bit better about current conditions, but they're worried about what may lie around the corner," said Gary Thayer, chief economist at A.G. Edwards and Sons in St. Louis, Missouri.
Even consumers' appraisal of current conditions was mixed. Those saying business conditions were good rose to 23.0 percent in November from 21.6 percent in October, while those who called them bad edged down to 20.5 percent from 21.4 percent.
But in a sign people remain troubled by the jobs picture, those saying jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 16.8 percent from 17.4 percent. Those who asserted jobs are "hard to get" rose to 28.1 percent from 27.9 percent.
"With consumers' assessment of current conditions holding steadfast and intentions to spend for the holiday season up from a year ago, the outlook for retailers is mildly encouraging," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center.
"But looking beyond the holidays, the continuing erosion in expectations suggests consumers do not feel the economy is likely to gain major momentum in early 2005," she added.
Consumers anticipating business conditions will worsen in the next six months increased to 11.9 percent in November from 10.5 percent in October, while those expecting conditions to improve decreased to 19.3 percent from 20.7 percent. Those expecting fewer jobs to become available in the next six months rose to 19.7 percent from 18.3 percent while those anticipating more jobs to become available was nearly unchanged at 16.8 percent. Consumers expecting their incomes to improve edged down to 18.5 percent from 19.0 percent in October.
"The employment situation is a concern," said Thayer. "People feel that jobs are harder to get. They don't feel the improvement in the economy that the statistics show. There are still problems out there that consumers are focusing on like the high energy prices and slow job growth."