Consumer Confidence Confusion

The latest reading on consumer confidence, released this morning by the Conference Board, showed a larger-than-expected decline in July. The drop in confidence comes just one month after reaching a five-year high. Meanwhile, a separate survey conducted by the University of Michigan found that consumer sentiment in July improved to its highest level in six years. So, what is with the mixed signals? “Americans have access to so much more information today that it becomes overwhelming and it creates a lot more uncertainty. They are bombarded on a daily basis with news reports; some of which indicate that the economy is improving, while others say things are not so good. You add in political leanings that greatly distort perceptions, their own experience and that of their friends, family and neighbors, not to mention the 24-hour news cycle that constantly updates and provides more information, and you have a cocktail of confusion,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. How relevant are confidence measurements to the economy’s overall health? How does low confidence damage one’s job search?