NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Consumer confidence slid further in early March, according to the results of a relatively new private survey released Tuesday.
The monthly consumer confidence measure compiled by Investor's Business Daily and TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, a private research firm, slid to 54.5 in March from 56.5 in February. The index had hit a 22-month high of 60.6 in January.
Though the survey of about 900 households is relatively new, having begun in February 2001, in the past year it has closely tracked movements in the broader consumer confidence measure of the Conference Board, another private research firm.
That more established measure, along with the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index and the ABC/Money magazine weekly confidence index, slipped in February, driven by consumer worries about a stagnant job market.
The ABC/Money index is scheduled for release Tuesday afternoon.
Last week, the Labor Department reported payrolls grew by just 21,000 jobs in February, missing economists' forecasts by a wide mark and extending the labor market's longest slump since the department started keeping records in 1939.
Wall Street pays close attention to consumers, whose spending fuels more than two-thirds of the nation's economy.
After booming in last year's third quarter, consumer spending growth has slowed. But most economists believe it will stay healthy in the first half of this year, buoyed by larger-than-usual income-tax refund checks, a residual effect of last year's tax cuts.
But lingering labor-market weakness, partly from corporate efforts to cut costs and maximize efficiencies, could threaten consumer spending later in the year, some economists worry, especially if wages continue to grow slowly.
In any event, consumers don't always spend the way they feel. Confidence plunged after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, for example, but consumers managed to keep spending, rushing to buy new automobiles and other items.
The IBD survey's measure of consumer expectations about the six-month economic outlook fell to 53.6 from 55.8 in February.
The personal financial outlook measure of how respondents feel about their own finances fell to 62.3 from 63.4 in February.
The survey's measure of confidence in federal economic policies fell to 47.5 from 50.5 in February. Its lowest level under President Bush was 47.4 last September 2003.