A big drop in jobs-hard-to-get, which hints at strength for April's employment report, headlines an otherwise soft consumer confidence report for April. Confidence slipped more than 2 points to 94.2 which is roughly in line the 6-month trend. But jobs-hard-to-get, at only 22.7 percent, is down 2.5 percentage points from March for the lowest reading since August. The gain for this reading gave a lift to the present situation component which rose 1.5 points to 116.4.
Weakness in the report is centered in the expectations component which fell 4.3 points to 79.3. This is near February's 79.9 and the lowest score since November 2013. Here, in contrast to the assessment of the current jobs market, there's outright pessimism with 17.2 percent seeing fewer jobs ahead vs only 12.2 percent seeing more ahead. Optimists, at 15.9 vs 11.2 percent, are still ahead in income expectations but this is a very narrow spread for this key reading.
Buying plans are all lower led by housing. Inflation expectations are steady at 4.8 percent which, however, is also very low for this reading.
The consumer has been sputtering so far this year, not getting any help from weak wage gains nor, perhaps, from uncertainty tied to the presidential campaign. Still, the improvement in jobs-hard-to-get is sizable and will no doubt raise talk of another solid employment report.
The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index broke lower in mid-April and no improvement is expected for the April edition of the Conference Board's consumer confidence index which forecasters see down 2 tenths at a consensus 96.0. Lack of wage traction is a definite negative for consumer spirits and the political climate may also be one. Inflation expectations, like in other reports, are very subdued and have been a subject of top concern for Federal Reserve policy makers who are trying to lift prices. Spring is a key season for the economy and weakness in confidence won't be lifting expectations for the consumer or housing sectors.