The latest survey indicates Americans continue to worry about their job prospects and the strength of the nation's employment market as 2003 comes to a close.
Consumers had been hoping that the job market would steadily improve by the end of this year. But a new survey from the Conference Board, a private business research group that polled 5,000 U.S. households, shows that consumers feel that jobs are harder to get.
Lynn Franco is director of the Conference Board's research center. She says that until a significant turnaround takes place, consumer optimism about current-day conditions will continue to lag behind expectations.
"Even though we have had several months of job growth, it has not been really strong enough to send the signal to consumers that the labor market is mending," she said. "What we are seeing here is as we are continuing to get these labor market gains, they are not yet strong enough to really turn around confidence."
Those saying jobs are hard to get rose to 32.6 percent from 29.6 percent in November. Those surveyed claiming jobs were plentiful fell from 13.5 percent to 12.5 percent.
Ms. Franco says consumer confidence is based on across-the-board conditions in the job market.
"They are aware that there are some signs of life, but it is just that the life is not strong enough as of yet," she said.
The Conference Board asks Americans of different ages, financial backgrounds, and regions of the country, to assess traditional economic indicators, such as business, and employment conditions.