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Consumer Confidence Back Down To Recession Level

A sharp drop in a widely watched gauge of consumer confidence has brought that key economic barometer to a low "last seen during the 2008-2009 recession," Conference Board director of consumer research Lynn Franco says in a report released by the private research group this morning.

The board says its consumer confidence index fell this month to 39.8, from 46.4 in September. Other measures of consumer sentiment, about current conditions and expectations, also declined.

As The Associated Press says, in 2008 and early 2009 the U.S. economy was "in the middle of a deep recession." This morning's report underscores, however, that while the economy may have technically emerged from recession in mid-2009, many Americans still aren't feeling as if things are getting better.

It's no wonder: The nation's unemployment rate has remained at or above 9 percent and job growth has remained weak.

The confidence index is closely watched by economists because consumers buy about 70 percent of all goods and services. And if consumers aren't feeling confident, that could mean spending will be soft in coming weeks and months.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.