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Consumer confidence hits lowest level since March 2009

Worries about jobs, income prospects rise, survey finds

The Consumer Confidence Index fell 6.6 points in October to 39.8 (1985=100), the lowest level since March 2009, the Conference Board reported.

The index had improved slightly in September but reversed course this month. The Present Situation Index decreased to 26.3 from 33.3, while the Expectations Index declined to 48.7 from 55.1 last month.

The survey, done for the research organization by Nielsen, had a cutoff date of Oct. 13 for the preliminary results.

"Consumer confidence is now back to levels last seen during the 2008-2009 recession," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Consumer expectations, which had improved in September, gave back all of the gain and then some, as concerns about business conditions, the labor market and income prospects increased. Consumers' assessment of present-day conditions did not fare any better. The Present Situation Index posted its sixth consecutive monthly decline, as pessimism about the current economic environment continues to grow," she said.

Consumers' appraisal of present-day conditions deteriorated further in October.

Those claiming business conditions are "bad" increased to 43.7% from 40.5%, while those claiming business conditions are "good" decreased to 11% from 12.1%.

Consumers' assessment of the labor market was also less favorable. Those claiming jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 3.4% from 5.6%. However, those saying jobs are "hard to get" decreased to 47.1% from 49.4%.

Consumers' short-term outlook, which had improved last month, reversed course in October. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 9.1% from 11.8%, while those expecting business conditions to worsen edged down to 21.5% from 21.9%.

Consumers' outlook for the job market was slightly more pessimistic. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead edged down to 11.3% from 11.9%, while those expecting fewer jobs decreased to 27.4% from 28.6%. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 10.3% from 13.5%.

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