The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index fell to 38.0, down from 44.7 in November, as views of business conditions and the labor market worsened significantly.
The index is based on research by The Conference Board Consumer Research Center (www.conference-board.org), which surveys 5,000 U.S. households.
"The further erosion of the Consumer Confidence Index reflects the rapid and steep deterioration of economic conditions that occurred in the fourth quarter of 2008,” Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement. She added that “the overall economic outlook remains quite dismal for the first half of 2009, and only a modest recovery is expected in the second half.”
According to the Conference Board survey, the number of people who claimed that business conditions are “bad” increased to 46 percent from 40.6 percent. The number of people who said that business conditions are “good” dropped to 7.7 percent from 10.1 percent in November.
In December, consumer views on the labor market also were more negative. Forty-two percent of people said jobs are "hard to get,” up from 37.1 percent in November. The number of people who said that jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 6.2 percent from 8.7 percent.
As for the near future, the number of people who think business conditions will worsen over the next six months increased to 32.8 percent from 28.3 percent. The number of people who expect conditions to improve rose to 13.4 percent from 11.5 percent.
For consumers, the future of the labor market looks hazy. The percentage of consumers who think there will be fewer jobs in the coming months increased to 41 percent from 33.7 percent, while the number of people expecting more jobs increased to 9.7 percent from 9.2 percent.