U.S. consumer confidence, which has declined during the last two months, has been weakest in the New England region over the last year, according to an analysis released by The Conference Board. This area – which includes Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont – has also registered declines in help-wanted job advertising.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index for this region declined to 77.3 from 82.3 last month. In fact, the index for this region has not been this low since last October, when it registered 75.5. In the last year, The Conference Board’s help-wanted job advertising index for the region declined to 23 from 27 (from August 2003 to August 2004).

“New England is very sensitive to downturns in the high tech and international trade sectors. While high tech had been recovering, it has hit a speed bump in recent months,” said Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein. “Export growth, surprisingly, dropped sharply earlier this summer, with little recovery underway. Consumers in this region clearly experienced a soft summer with confidence levels reflecting this trend.”

Consumer confidence in the East North Central region is also weak. In this region – which includes Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin – consumer confidence fell from 82.2 in August to 75.1 in September. The index for this region is only up about four points from year-ago levels – from 70.9 to 75.1. The help-wanted jobs advertising index for this region has been essentially flat in the last year.

Consumer confidence in most of the other regions of the United States remains substantially above year-ago levels. Those regions with the largest gains in the last year include the Pacific, South Atlantic and Middle Atlantic regions.

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