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Consumer confidence rises slightly in August

NEW YORK — Consumers were slightly more upbeat this month as the Consumer Confidence Index rose to 81.5 from 81.0 in July, The Conference Board reported.

The research organization said the Present Situation Index decreased in August to 70.7 from 73.6, but the Expectations Index increased to 88.7 from 86.0 last month.

The July index had declined a bit from 82.1 in June (1985=100), which was a five-year high.

"Consumer Confidence increased slightly in August, a result of improving short-term expectations," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. "Consumers were moderately more upbeat about business, job and earning prospects. In fact, income expectations, which had declined sharply earlier this year with the payroll tax hike, have rebounded to their highest level in two and a half years. Consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions, on the other hand, was somewhat less favorable than last month," she said.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey is done for The Conference Board by Nielsen. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was Aug. 15.

Consumers' assessment of current conditions moderately declined. Those stating business conditions are "good" decreased to 18.4% from 20.8%, while those stating business conditions are "bad" was virtually unchanged at 24.8%.

Consumers' appraisal of the labor market was mixed. Those claiming jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 11.4% from 12.3%, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" declined to 33.0% from 35.2%.

Consumers' expectations, which had retreated in July, increased in August. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months edged up to 20.1% from 19.9%. Those expecting business conditions to worsen declined slightly to 11.1% from 11.3%.

Consumers' outlook for the labor market remained upbeat. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 17.6% from 16.7%, while those anticipating fewer jobs edged down to 17.3% from 17.7%. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase improved to 17.4% from 15.7%. Those expecting a decrease declined slightly to 13.5% from 13.7%.

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