Consumer confidence at record low

NEW YORK Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:42am EST

A shopper reaches into his wallet to pay for a purchase on ''Black Friday'' in Burbank, California November 28, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

A shopper reaches into his wallet to pay for a purchase on ''Black Friday'' in Burbank, California November 28, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumer confidence fell to a record low in December as the worst job market in 16 years hammered sentiment, the Conference Board said on Tuesday.

The Conference Board, a business research company, said its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 38.0 in December from a slightly downwardly revised 44.7 in November.

The median forecast of economists polled by Reuters was for a reading of 45.0. Their 62 forecasts ranged from 40.0 to 51.1.

"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," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center.

"The overall economic outlook remains quite dismal for the first half of 2009, and only a modest recovery is expected in the second half."

Chief among consumers' woes has been spiraling job losses in recent months.

U.S. employers axed 533,000 jobs from payrolls in November alone, the most in 34 years, according to Labor Department data released earlier this month.

The Conference Board data reflected this, with its "jobs hard to get" index rising to 42.0 in December -- its highest since December 1992. That was up from 37.1 in November.

Not surprisingly, consumers also rated their present situation the worst in 16 years, with the index of this measure tumbling to 29.4 -- its lowest since April 1992 -- from November's 42.3.

(Reporting by Burton Frierson, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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