The monthly Consumer Confidence Index, which uses 1985 as a base year with an assigned value of 100, fell from 72 in February to 63.4 in March. The Expectations Index, measuring consumer confidence in the economy six months down the road, fell from 97.5 a month ago to 81.1.
In March, the monthly survey of 5,000 households found the number of respondents indicating economic conditions were "good" rose from 12.4 percent to 15.1 percent. The number of respondents indicating conditions were "bad" fell from 39.3 percent to 37 percent.
Consumers were less optimistic in March about the labor market than they were a month ago. The percentage of respondents indicating jobs were "plentiful" fell from 4.9 percent to 4.4 percent, while the number indicating jobs were "hard to get" rose from 44.4 percent to 44.6 percent.
"The sharp decline in confidence was prompted by a sharp decline in expectations. Consumers' inflation expectations rose significantly in March and their income expectations soured, a combination that will likely impact spending decisions. On the other hand, consumers' assessment of current conditions improved, indicating that while the short-term future may be uncertain, the economy continues to expand," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a statement.