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Americans Less Confident About Economic Prospects - 2004-02-24


A survey finds that Americans became less optimistic about their outlook for jobs and earning potential last month.

The monthly survey by the Conference Board, a private business research group, found a nine-point drop in its consumer confidence index in February. The index now stands at 87.3, down from 96.4 in January.

The Conference Board says the pace of recent job expansion has been too "tepid to generate a sustainable turnaround" in consumer confidence.

The director of the Conference Board's research group, Lynn Franco, says American consumers began the year on a "high note," but that optimism has quickly dissipated.

"They are a bit more cautious in terms of their economic outlook, a bit more cautious in terms of their earnings potential and the job outlook, as well," she said. "So overall, we have just seen them turn more cautious than they were in January."

According to Ms. Franco, the substantial drop in consumer confidence reflects a general disenchantment with current economic conditions. "A lot of this is driven by the rather lackluster pace of job growth that we have seen over the last several months," she said. "We have not generated enough new jobs yet at a level to really quell consumer concerns. So what we are seeing here is what we are seeing over the last several months, which is a sort of up and down of consumer confidence, which is driven, primarily by the labor market."

The conference board surveys about 3,300 households a month for its consumer confidence index.

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