Confidence Down, Spending Up in December

NEW YORK — Consumers were slightly more pessimistic about jobs and the economy in December than they were in November, according to the latest data from the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, which was released Tuesday.

NEW YORK — Consumers were slightly more pessimistic about jobs and the economy in December than they were in November, according to the latest data from the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, which was released Tuesday.

The unexpected decline in confidence came on the heels of a holiday shopping season that was stronger than many had predicted, with the MasterCard SpendingPulse survey on Monday reporting that consumers spent 5.5% more during this year's holiday season than they did a year ago. Apparel and jewelry were big winners, up 11.2% and 8.4%, respectively.

The Consumer Confidence Index, however, was measured at 52.5, down from 54.3 in November. Consumers soured on employment prospects, with 19.5% anticipating fewer jobs in the months ahead, vs. 19.1% in November, and only 14.3% expecting an increase in jobs, down from 15.1% last month. The proportion of people expecting their incomes to increase also declined, to 9.9% vs. 11.1% in November.

"Despite this month's modest decline, consumer confidence is no worse off today than it was a year ago," said Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center at the Conference Board, in a prepared statement. "Consumers' assessment of the current state of the economy and labor market remains tepid, and their outlook remains cautious. Thus, all signs continue to suggest that the economic expansion will continue well into 2011, but that the pace of growth will remain moderate."