NEW YORK — Americans can’t seem to shake their uneasy feeling about the economy.
Consumer confidence fell in June for the fourth straight month as worries about jobs and the overall economy outweighed relief at the gasoline pump and an improvement in the housing market, according to a private research group.
The decline was modest; the Conference Board said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index fell from 64.4 in May to 62 in June.
But the four-month slide from 71.6 in February is significant and corresponds with a slowdown in hiring by U.S. companies over the same period, experts said.
The index is widely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity. A reading of 90 indicates a healthy economy. The index hit an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009.
The latest survey shows that despite lower gas prices, Americans are still worried about stagnant hiring, low home values, the choppy stock market and a worsening European economy that some fear will hurt the U.S.
“We’re trying to break free from this orbit, and we haven’t been able to,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Economics. “Job market concerns will always trump swings in energy prices.”
Alyson Seligman, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., agrees. Seligman, who runs a small public relations firm, said lower gas prices haven’t caused her to feel much more confident in the economy.
“Anything can turn on a dime,” she said. “You have to be prepared.”
Worries about job and income growth weighed the heaviest on Americans in the index, based on a June 1-14 survey. The margin of error is plus or minus 5.5 points.
Consumers’ dwindling confidence since February corresponds with a sharp slowdown in hiring. Hiring averaged 96,000 during the combined period of March, April and May. That marked a slowdown from the average of 252,000 a month in the previous three months.