US consumer sentiment slips in March to five-month low

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer sentiment slipped last month to lowest level since October with Americans worried about the country's economic outlook, the University of Michigan said Friday.

The university's index of consumer sentiment dipped to 91 in March, from 91.7 in February. Richard Curtin, chief economist of the Michigan surveys, said consumers' dim view of the economy offset improvement in their own finances. Last month's reading was the lowest since the index registered 90 in October. A year earlier, it stood at 93.

Signs of economic weakness and rising gasoline prices have taken a toll on spirits.

AAA says the average gallon of U.S. gasoline costs $2.06, a 17 percent hike from the $1.76 they were paying a month ago.

Americans have grown cautious about spending. Consumer spending ticked up just 0.1 percent in February, same as in December and January.

Still, the job market is healthy. The government reported Friday that employers added 215,000 jobs in March. The unemployment rate rose to 5 percent from 4.9 percent in February but only because so many Americans came off the sidelines and started looking for work.

The economy grew at a lackluster 1.4 percent annual pace from October through December and might be even worse the first three months of 2016: Citing weak consumer spending, many economists have cut their first-quarter forecast below 1 percent.