American consumers were very upbeat about the current economic situation this month but more uncertain about the near-term outlook, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
With that mixed sentiment, the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index held steady in May at 117.2 from 117.5 in April -- a figure revised sharply lower but still the highest since March 2020, when the pandemic shuttered the US economy.
Respondents this month expressed more confidence about current business conditions and job prospects, and the present situation index jumped more than 12 points to 144.3, the report said.
However, the expectations index fell nearly nine points to 99.1, with consumers less optimistic about the chance of finding jobs and about the business environment in the coming six months.
Confidence had rebounded sharply in recent months, "However, consumers' short-term optimism retreated, prompted by expectations of decelerating growth and softening labor market conditions in the months ahead," said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board.
Respondents' more wary views also could reflect "rising inflation expectations and a waning of further government support," Franco said in a statement.
As the US economic reopening has picked up speed, prices of many goods and services, especially those hardest hit by the Covid-19 shutdowns, have jumped, raising concerns of an inflationary spike.
However, central bankers at the Federal Reserve have repeatedly stressed that inflation pressures will be temporary and subside as the economy returns to normal and supply bottlenecks are resolved.
Franco said despite the concerns, "Overall, consumers remain optimistic, and confidence should remain resilient in the short term, as vaccination rates climb, Covid-19 cases decline further and the economy fully reopens."