WASHINGTON -- The confidence of Americans in the U.S. economy fell in September to the lowest level in four months amid heightened concerns about stagnant wages and whether more new jobs will be created in the next six months.
The consumer-confidence index fell to 79.7 this month from a revised 81.8 in August, according to the nonprofit Conference Board, publisher of the report. That basically matched the 79.5 estimate of economists surveyed by MarketWatch.
"Consumer confidence decreased in September as concerns about the short-term outlook for both jobs and earnings resurfaced," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. "While overall economic conditions appear to have moderately improved, consumers are uncertain that the momentum can be sustained in the months ahead."
Most of the drop in the main index came from a decline in expectations for the next six months. The expectations index fell to 84.1 from 89, mainly because fewer people expect incomes to rise and more jobs to become available. Higher interest rates probably also hurt.
Consumers felt OK about the economy right now, with the present situation index edging up to 73.2 from 70.9.
One good sign: The percentage of people who now say jobs are hard to find fell to a five-year low of 32.7 percent. Economists say that could bode well for the government's official U.S. employment report for September. The MarketWatch forecast
projects a 180,000 increase in U.S. jobs, up from 169,000 in August.
The confidence index, however, could experience some jolts in the next few months if U.S. lawmakers engage in a prolonged fight over a budget deal. Battles over funding for President Barack Obama's health care reform and limits on how much money the U.S. government can borrow could lead to a partial shutdown of the government and reduce federal spending.