U.S. consumer confidence dropped in January. A private research group, the Conference Board, says its monthly survey of consumer sentiment showed people increasingly think jobs are more difficult to find.
The group's closely watched index fell from 65 in December to 61 in the first month of the new year, well below the 90 level signaling a healthy economy.
Economists monitor consumer sentiment as a hint about the future of the national economy, because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economic output. The the world's largest economy has sluggishly recovered from the recession in 2007 to 2009, but 13-million workers remain unemployed.
Consumer worries about employment prospects may mirror January employment numbers the U.S. government will release Friday. In December, America added 200,000 jobs, but economists are predicting the country only created 125,000 in January.
With 8.5 percent of the workforce unemployed, President Barack Obama called for Congress to quickly pass job-creating measures. He wants to extend tax breaks for small businesses and give new assistance to entrepreneurs who start companies.
While the American economy has advanced slowly, the U.S. government has also struggled to curb its deficit spending. The national debt has ballooned to a record-high of more than $15 trillion, and government officials say the trend is continuing. They projected a $1.1 trillion budget deficit for the year ending in September. That is down from last year's $1.3 trillion figure, but still high by historical standards.