The index that measures consumers' feelings about the current economic situation increased slightly, while the index measuring consumers' sentiment about the future was down more. Still, the expectations index is more than 30 percent higher than it was at this time one year ago.
"The small decline in the Conference Board measure of U.S. consumer confidence in May is nothing to be worried about because it is falling from a very high level," said Michael Pearce, an economist for Capital Economics. "Overall, the data released this morning suggest that the U.S. consumers remain upbeat and willing to spend."
Consumers' outlook for the job market was also mixed. The number of people surveyed who expected more jobs in the coming months declined, but so did the number of people expecting fewer jobs. Economists closely monitor the mood of consumers because their spending makes up about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
Earlier Tuesday, the Commerce Department reported that consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in April, its best showing since December. Consumer spending grew at the slowest pace in seven years in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department reported earlier this month that retail sales were up April, but many retailers reported first-quarter earnings that showed challenges adjusting to the dramatic shift among shoppers to online spending.
Last week the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes suffered the largest monthly decline in more than two years, but economists suggested it was an anomaly and expect a rebound next month.
This story has been corrected to show that the April consumer confidence index was revised to 119.4, not 120.3.