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Job future doubts put crimp in outlook

After holding steady in June, consumer confidence stumbled and fell during July, tripped up by a worsening jobs outlook, falling by 8.3 percent to a level of 76.6, down from 83.5 the prior month.

"The rising level of unemployment and sentiment that a turnaround in labor market conditions is not around the corner have contributed to deflating consumers' spirits this month," said Lynn Franco, director of the business think tank's Consumer Research Center. "Expectations are likely to remain weak until the job market becomes more favorable."

Consumers' expectations for the labor market weakened considerably. The number expecting more jobs to become available over the next six months declined to 16.8 percent from 18.9 percent the prior month. Correspondingly, the number who anticipate that fewer jobs will become available increased to 19.8 percent from 16.9 percent.

Consumers viewed current business conditions more dimly, and their expectations for the next six months also weakened, The Conference Board reported. The number who rate business conditions as "bad" increased to 30.4 percent from 28.1 percent. And looking ahead, the number who expect business conditions to improve fell to 20.2 percent from 23.5 percent.

Despite eroding confidence levels, consumers seem eager to hit the malls, and buying plans increased virtually across the board, recovering from big declines the prior month. Plans to buy a house some time during the next six months jumped up by 13.3 percent after tumbling by 21.1 percent in June. Plans to buy a carpet increased by 28.6 percent, recovering from a 14.5 percent June decline. After falling 21.1 percent the preceding month, plans to buy a home spiked up by 44.1 percent. Plans to buy a major appliance edged up by 2.2 percent, after a drop of 10.8 percent in June.

Consumer confidence by region

REGION % CHANGE
New England -20.5%
Middle Atlantic -4.7
East North Central -1.3
West North Central 12.2
South Atlantic -14.0
East South Central -18.9
West South Central -14.9
Mountain -21.7


Consumer Buying Plans — July
plans to purchase over the next six months

Source: The Conference Board
Homes +13.3%
Carpets +28.6
Cars +44.1
Major appliances +2.2
Vacation -1.4


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