NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Uncertainty about the economy continued to shake consumer confidence in July, pushing a key measure of morale to the lowest level since February.
The Conference Board, a New York-based research group, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index dropped for a second straight month, to 50.4 in July from June's upwardly revised level of 54.3.
July's reading was lower than expected. Economists had forecast the index to have ticked down to 51 in July from 52.9 in June, according to a consensus estimate from Briefing.com.
"Consumer confidence faded further in July as consumers continue to grow increasingly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook," Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement. "Concerns about business conditions and the labor market are casting a dark cloud over consumers that is not likely to lift until the job market improves."
Before the sharp drop in June, the consumer confidence index had risen for three straight months. And while the latest reading of 50.4 is much higher than the record low of 25.3 hit in February 2009, it is still significantly below 90, a level that typically indicates a stable economy.
The decline in consumer confidence in July was driven by lower expectations about short-term economic improvement and more pessimism about the present state of the economy.
The index's expectations component slipped to 66.6 in July from 72.7 in June, while the present situation component, which tracks consumers' expectations over the next few months, fell to 26.1 from 26.8.
Consumers were also increasingly gloomy about job prospects this month, with 14.3% of consumers anticipating more jobs in the coming months, down from 16.2% in June.
They had reason to worry, since the government's closely watched jobs report for June showed that the U.S. economy lost jobs for the first time this year.
Barnes and Noble announced plans to start selling alcohol in some of its stores. And shares of the bookstore chain rallied on the news while the rest of the market was down on Brexit fears. More
Startup Spark examined the effects that political candidates had on the human brain and nervous system using a device called BrainWave. Here's what it found. More
In 1998, Ntsiki Biyela won a scholarship to study wine making. Now she's about to launch her own brand. More
A tax reform proposal from House Republicans would simplify the tax code and cut rates. More