updated 11/28/2006 11:04:07 AM ET 2006-11-28T16:04:07

Worries about the job market chipped away at Americans’ confidence in the economy in November, a private research group said Tuesday, boosting concerns about the important holiday shopping season.

Major Market Indices

“A tighter labor market and a more guarded short-term outlook have combined to curb consumers’ confidence in November,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a statement. But she added that despite the retreat, “the overall level of confidence remains favorable and continues to suggest that the economy will expand throughout the first half of next year.”

The group’s Present Situation Index, which measures how shoppers feel now about economic conditions, declined to 123.6. Its Expectations Index, which measures consumers’ outlook over the next six months, declined to 89.2 from 91.9 in November.

The news followed a government report on durable goods earlier Tuesday which showed that big-ticket manufactured goods plunged in October by the largest amount in more than six years. Both reports were further signals of a slowing economy.

They were also not good signs for the nation’s retailers, who are counting on shoppers to keep buying after a solid start to the holiday shopping season. Falling gasoline prices and receding interest rates have helped to boost analysts’ outlook for a robust holiday season.

High-profile layoffs in the auto industry and steep cutbacks in home building have made consumers uneasy about the labor market, even though government reports have painted a healthy picture for jobs. The drop in durable orders also provided more evidence that the nation’s factories are beginning to feel the impact of the slowdown in the overall economy and could derail any gains made in the employment market.

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