NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Concerns about jobs drove consumer confidence lower in September, according to the latest Conference Board reading Tuesday, with the closely watched measure below Wall Street forecasts.
The survey by the business research group put its consumer confidence index at 96.8, down from a revised 98.7 reading in August. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast the index would improve to 99.5.
A key to the drop is rising concern about the state of the labor market. Consumers saying jobs are "plentiful" fell to 16.8 percent from 18.4 percent, while those who view jobs as "hard to get" increased to 28.3 percent from 26.0 percent in August.
The view of employment six months out is a bit more mixed. The percentage who see fewer jobs increased to 16.1 percent from 15.1 percent. But those who expect to see more jobs also rose to 17.7 percent from 16.3 percent.
Consumers' views of overall business conditions was more mixed.
Those who see business conditions as "good" edged higher to 23.6 percent from 23 percent, while those claiming conditions are "bad" was little changed at 20.3 percent.
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Meanwhile, those who believe overall business conditions will worsen in the next six months increased to 9.4 percent from 8.8 percent, while those forecasting business conditions will improve increased to 21.4 percent from 20.2 percent in August.
Consumer confidence is a key factor in consumer spending decisions, particularly on big-ticket items, and consumer spending accounts for roughly two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.
Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, said consumers' views of the labor market are the key component of spending decisions.
U.S. stocks retreated after the 10 a.m. ET report, while prices for the 10-year note increased.