Consumer confidence fell in June for the fourth straight month as fears about jobs and the greater economy trumped relief at the gas pump and a boost in the housing market, according to a private research group.
The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index fell modestly from 64.4 in May to 62 in June. But the four-month slide from 71.6 in February is significant and corresponds with a slowdown in hiring by U.S. companies over the same period.
The latest survey shows that despite lower gas prices, Americans are still worried about low home values, the stock market, stagnant hiring and a troubled European economy that some believe will hurt the U.S.
The index is widely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity. A reading of 90 indicates a healthy economy. The index hit an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009.
Worries about job and income growth weighed the heaviest on Americans in the index, which was based on a survey conducted from June 1 through June 14 of about 500 randomly selected people nationwide. The margin of error for the index is plus or minus 5.5 points.
Those stating jobs are "hard to get" increased slightly to 41.5% from 40.9%, while those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 14.1% from 15.4%. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes declined to 14.8% from 15.7%.
Consumers' dwindling confidence since February corresponds with a sharp slowdown in hiring. Hiring averaged 96,000 during the combined period of March, April and May. That marked a slowdown from the average of 252,000 a month in the prior three months.
The strong hiring during the winter helped lift the Consumer Confidence Index from 40.9 in October to the highest reading it had been in a year during February. But in the following months that hiring has slipped, so has consumer confidence.