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Coronavirus: US consumer confidence plummets but future optimism increases

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US consumer confidence nosedived in April to the lowest level since 2014 as concern mounted about jobs and incomes in the wake of government efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.

The Conference Board’s index plummeted by 31.9 points, the sharpest drop since 1973, to 86.9, according to a report issued Tuesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists had called for a decline to 87.

One bright spot: The group’s subindex of expectations, based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions, rose by seven points to 93.8, a sign consumers see the pandemic’s impact as temporary. The shares of respondents expecting better business conditions and more jobs in six months, at 40 percent and 41 percent respectively, were both record highs.

Attitudes about current conditions, however, dropped by a record 90.3 points to 76.4. The 45.2 percent share of respondents saying business conditions were currently bad was the highest since 2010.

“Consumers’ short-term expectations for the economy and labor market improved, likely prompted by the possibility that stay-at-home restrictions will loosen soon, along with a re-opening of the economy,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “However, consumers were less optimistic about their financial prospects and this could have repercussions for spending as the recovery takes hold.”

While the overall outlook improved, respondents showed little sign they are itching to get out and spend.

Some 18.5 percent said they expected their incomes to decline in the next six months, the greatest share in more than seven years. Fewer also indicated they planned to buy cars, homes and major appliances, while the share planning to take a vacation dropped to a record-low 31.9 percent.

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