WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence fell in April over concerns about hiring and business conditions, even though many people foresee a strengthening economy in the months ahead.
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index dropped to 82.3 from a March reading of 83.9. Despite the decline, consumer sentiment for the past two months has been at its strongest levels since January 2008, when the Great Recession was just beginning.
Concerns about the state of the economy fell for the first time since the federal government partially shut down in October.
Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said consumer sentiment tailed off in April because the pace of hiring, while strengthening, "is still slow, and the tougher environment is hurting American confidence."
Even though consumers are a bit more downbeat about existing economic conditions, their outlook for future growth held steady, noted Conference Board economist Lynn Franco. The expectations component of the index rose to an eight-month high in April.
Consumer confidence is closely watched because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy.
The number of people who thought jobs were hard to get rose slightly to 32.5 percent from 31.4 percent in March. Economists expect sentiment about the job market to brighten if the pace of hiring quickens.
Employers added 192,000 jobs in March and 197,000 jobs in February, after cold winter weather had caused hiring to stall in the prior months. The unemployment rate held steady at 6.7 percent last month despite the hiring because more Americans are seeking work. People without jobs are counted as unemployed only when they start looking for one.