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Consumer confidence drops, again

New York — The consumer confidence index dropped for the fifth consecutive month in November, falling more than three points to 82.2.

Compiled by The Conference Board every month, the index had been expected to show some improvement in the most recent survey. Economic watchers had foreseen a gain based on an increase in the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index (which appeared in the week for The Conference Board's number), signs of healthy traffic at retailers during the post-Thanksgiving weekend and promising news from the war in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless — as Lynn Franco, director of the board's consumer research center, observed — consumer confidence is still prey to the jobs bugaboo. "Rising unemployment and continuing layoff announcements are dampening confidence," Franco said. "A turnaround in confidence levels is not likely before year's end, nor are retailers likely to enjoy a blockbuster holiday season."

The two major components of the overall confidence statistic moved in opposite directions in the November survey. The present situations index plummeted nearly 14 points, finishing at 93.5; but the expectations index gained almost four points, to 74.6.

The jobs picture colored the consumers' view of the present. The survey respondents who felt that jobs are "hard to get" rose from 20.6 percent in October to 23 percent last month; in addition, those looking upon jobs as "plentiful" fell from 20.9 percent to 17 percent.

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