The Conference Board today announced that its consumer confidence index edged up for the second consecutive month in January amid improving job-market conditions.

The index now stands at 103.4 (1985=100), up from 102.7 in December. The present situation index increased to 110.9 from 105.7. The expectations index, however, declined to 98.4 from 100.7.

“Despite the slight retreat in expectations, consumers’ short-term outlook remains favorable and suggests the economy will continue to expand throughout the first half of this year,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center. “And, recent advances in the present situation index, now at its highest level since May 2002, suggest consumers will not dramatically alter their spending in the months ahead.”

Consumers’ overall assessment of current conditions improved in January. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased to 26 percent from 24.4 percent. However, those claiming conditions are “bad” rose to 18.2 percent from 17.8 percent.

The employment picture was also more favorable. Consumers saying jobs are “plentiful” increased to 20.7 percent from 19.4 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” fell to 24.7 percent from 26.4 percent.

Consumers’ short-term outlook, while not as optimistic as a month ago, remains positive. Those anticipating business conditions to improve in the next six months declined to 21.1 percent from 22.4 percent. Consumers expecting business conditions to worsen increased moderately to 8 percent from 7.7 percent.

The outlook for the labor market remains virtually unchanged. Now, 16.3 percent of consumers, compared to 16.4 percent last month, expect more jobs to become available in the coming months. Those expecting fewer jobs edged up to 15.5 percent from 15.3 percent. Consumers expecting their incomes to improve in the months ahead edged down to 18 percent from 21 percent last month.

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