By  on November 1, 2006

Americans became more concerned about jobs last month as the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index slipped to 105.4 from a revised September reading of 105.9.

The drop in consumer optimism surprised economists who had forecast that the index would rise to 107.8 on the eve of midterm elections.

The index reflected a mixed sentiment among consumers about current conditions and their expectations for the future. The Present Situation Index fell to 124.7 from 128.3, and the Expectations Index rose to 92.6 from 91.

"October's dip in confidence was prompted by consumers' mixed assessment of present-day business conditions and a less favorable view of the job market," Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement.

She added, "Overall, this month's readings continue to suggest a moderate pace of economic growth and more of the same for the first few months of 2007."

The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.

Respondents to October's survey who said conditions were "bad" rose to 17.1 percent from 15.6 percent, while those stating that conditions were "good," inched up to 28.1 percent from 27.3 percent.

As for their current feelings about the labor front, consumers were less positive than they were last month. Those who said jobs are "plentiful" dipped to 25.8 percent from 26.2 percent, while those who said jobs are "hard to get" rose to 22 percent from 20.9 percent in September.

Consumers generally were more optimistic about the short-term outlook but weren't that upbeat about the labor market ahead.

Those who expected business conditions to improve in the next six months edged up to 18.5 percent from 16.5 percent, and consumers who said business conditions would worsen dropped to 9.9 percent from 10.3 percent.

As for the jobs picture, consumers who expected more jobs to become available in the coming months rose to 15.2 percent from 14.7 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs also increased to 17.5 percent from 16.5 percent. Consumers who expect their incomes to rise in the months ahead dipped to 19.6 percent from 20.2 percent.

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