Consumer confidence unexpectedly fell to 52.5 in December from a revised 54.3 in November, as a sluggish U.S. job market prevented consumers from changing their cautious stance toward the economic recovery.

A Bloomberg survey had expected the index to rise to 57.4 in December. The index was at 50.2 in October, 58.6 in September, and 53.5 in August. It hit a record low of 25.3 in April 2009.

Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, said although consumer confidence unexpectedly dipped in December, the longer-term trend offers a more encouraging picture.

"Outlook Remains Cautious"

"Despite this month's modest decline, consumer confidence is no worse off today than it was a year ago. Consumers' assessment of the current state of the economy and labor market remains tepid, and their outlook remains cautious," Franco said, in a statement. "Thus, all signs continue to suggest that the economic expansion will continue well into 2011, but that the pace of growth will remain moderate."

Most components of the index dipped in December, with a slightly better outlook toward business conditions but more -guarded about the job market.

Regarding the economy's six-month forecast, those expecting an improvement in business conditions increased to 16.6% in December from 16.4% in November, while those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased to 12.1% from 12.4%.

On current conditions, those claiming they're "good" edged lower to 7.5% in December from 8.5% in November, while those saying conditions are "bad" decreased to 41.2% from 42.9%.

Fewer People Expect a Raise

Regarding future job prospects, those anticipating fewer jobs in the months ahead increased to 19.5% from 19.1% in November, while those anticipating more jobs fell to 14.3% from 15.1%. Also, those saying jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 3.9% from 4.3% in November, while those saying jobs are "hard to get" edged up to 46.8% from 46.3%.

In addition, consumers expecting an income increase fell to 9.9% in December from 11.1% in November.

December's dip in confidence shows both the deep impact of the recent recession and the relationship of job creation to consumer attitudes. Most Americans know someone who's been affected by a lost job during the downturn, or perhaps they've lost a position themselves. At the same time, these consumers also sense that the economy is growing, and that many companies are doing better today than a year ago.

However, until these consumers see sustained progress on the job front -- such as a steady drop in the U.S. unemployment rate -- they're likely to maintain a cautious stance toward the economy, particularly regarding their own big-ticket purchases.

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Gumby

It is the rich's job to coddle and comfort consumers... amid the ongoing messes all around us..

December 29 2010 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gumby

Consumers is shaken whenever they couldnt resisit paying more attention due to the rising din of the sound blaring all around!! keep it quiet and everything will be fine... Consumers prefer to ignore and be blissful!!

December 29 2010 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gumby

Consumer confidence should already have been shaken a long, long , long time ago by the continued gridlock in the rush hour traffic as commuters stay stuck and listening to stupid Rush Limbaugh!!!

December 29 2010 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ultraz2

Short sales and forclosures should not be allowed to be listed on MLS and should not be allowed to be used by appraisers as comps. These two items would help property values and all other home sales. And would immediately stablize home values. WAKE UP IDIOTS ON CAPITOL HILL! DO SOMETHING RIGHT FOR A CHANGE! TERM LIMITS NOW!

December 28 2010 at 10:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ultraz2's comment
ultraz2

The restaurants are not full but empty. And people traveled more looking for places to get bargins as they spent only 70 percent as much this year as they did for last Christ Mass holiday season.

December 28 2010 at 10:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ultraz2's comment
ThinkUp70

The so-called recession hasn't stopped the traffic any, the restaurants are full, no starving-looking people around, all the Walmart's and other "big" retail stores are busy, and spending is in full swing with everyone's "little plastic cards . . . and everyone is whining . . . Happy New Year!

December 28 2010 at 4:29 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
hustonlaw

Perhaps the weakness in confidence is related to the newfound status of homeowners as indentured servants, at least for those of us in states where real property values have plummeted by 60+%, and are still falling.

December 28 2010 at 2:57 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
phasejump

The administration has done a good job and focused on most of the right things

December 28 2010 at 2:54 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
tmlbtb

Probably the same thing they have to say about Bush and Reagan tripling the national debt during their reign.

December 28 2010 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tmlbtb

As the Huffington Post explains, most American companies are doing their hiring overseas. Is John Boehner crying over this? He gives us that crock about worrying if today's children are going to find the American dream while he blocks legislation to close the loophole to prevent "American" companies from doing this.

December 28 2010 at 1:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply