NEW YORK -- Americans' faith in the economy tumbled in August to a nine-month low, which could translate to tightened purse strings if job growth stumbles or fuel costs rebound.
Job-related worries were the big reason consumer confidence fell more than expected this month to its lowest level since November. In July, unemployment rose to a five-month high of 4.8 percent.
But analysts expect job creation and personal spending for August to come in higher in reports due later this week, and pump prices have fallen more than 5 percent over the past month -- providing some relief in people's travel budgets.
Furthermore, consumers surveyed reported small increases in their plans to buy homes and major appliances, despite their dwindling confidence.
The Conference Board, a New York research group, said yesterday its confidence index fell to 99.6, down from 107.0 in July. The index was lower than analysts' expectation of 102.5.
The last time the index fell below 100 was in November, which saw a reading of 98.3.
There are still more consumers who feel business and labor conditions are favorable than unfavorable, but the gap is closing, economists noted.
``It confirms that the economy is slowing down, that things are cooling off a bit, and that consumers are little bit more concerned about the job situation than they were earlier this year," said Gary Thayer, chief economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. in St. Louis.
Data on personal spending for July will be released tomorrow. Analysts are expecting an increase from June.
Consumer confidence has been volatile this year, with rising interest rates, high energy prices, and fighting in the Middle East weighing on Americans' view of how the US economy is doing.
Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center, said this month's drop -- the largest one-month decline since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast a year ago -- means expectations of slower growth in the coming months.
On Aug. 4, the Labor Department said the nation's unemployment rate rose a five-month high of 4.8 percent in July, up from 4.6 percent in June. However, analysts are expecting Labor to report on Friday that the unemployment rate edged lower to 4.7 percent.