Sept. 30, 2004--A weakening jobs outlook contributed to a second consecutive monthly drop in U.S. consumer confidence, according to a report released Monday.

The Consumer Confidence Index, published by the New York-based Conference Board, dipped to 96.8 in September, down from 98.7 in August. The Present Situation Index, a component of the CCI, dropped to 95.5 from 100.7, while the Expectations Index component remained relatively stable.

"The recent declines in the index were caused primarily by a deterioration in consumers' assessment of employment conditions," said Conference Board spokeswoman Lynn Franco. "Soft labor market conditions have clearly taken a toll on consumer confidence. Still, expectations for the next six months are virtually unchanged from August."

The index showed a slight weakening in consumers' perceptions of the overall employment situation compared to August. Consumers saying jobs are "plentiful" declined to 16.8% from 18.4%, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" rose 2.3 points to 28.3%. But the proportion of consumers expecting their own incomes to improve in the near future edged upward to 20.0% from 19.7% last month.

Consumers offered a mixed opinion of present-day conditions, with 23.6% describing business conditions as "good" compared to 23.0% a month ago, and the percentage describing conditions as "bad" remaining mostly unchanged. Consumers' outlook for the next six months also remained relatively unchanged from a month ago.

The index is calculated using the results of a survey mailed to 5,000 U.S. households. Results for this month include data through September 20th.