UK consumer confidence index falls

A woman walks past a sale sign displayed in the window of a shop on Oxford Street in London in this January 15, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

LONDON (Reuters) - British consumer confidence slipped in March as people fretted about rising job losses and a deepening recession, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The Nationwide Building Society said its consumer confidence index fell to 41 last month, matching the series low hit in January, from 43 in February.

The number of Britons out of work rose above two million at the start of this year for the first time this decade. Analysts reckon the jobless total will top three million before the end of the year.

“Overall consumer confidence has remained broadly stable since the start of the year, but feelings about the current labour market have weakened,” said Fionnuala Earley, Nationwide’s chief economist.

The spending sub-index remained steady at a higher levels than most of last year. The present situation index, which measures sentiment about the current economic climate, dropped three points while the expectations index dropped two points.

Nationwide’s findings contrast with those of pollsters GfK/NOP which showed consumers grew less gloomy in March as lower mortgage repayments boosted disposable income.

The Bank of England cut interest rates to a record low 0.5 percent last month, slashing borrowing costs for homeowners with variable rate mortgages.

Reporting by Christina Fincher; Editing by Ruth Pitchford