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Consumer confidence took a turn for the worse in March as consumers, including free-spending singles, showed increasing concern about their employment and income prospects over the next six months, two government surveys showed Monday.

The surveys, conducted by the Cabinet Office, show that the consumer confidence index as of March 15 had dropped 2.8 percentage points to 40.2 on a seasonally adjusted basis, from 43 in the previous survey in December, the second consecutive fall.

The latest survey shows that the consumer confidence index for single-person households, which has been buoyant, fell for the first time in nine quarters, dipping 1.1 points to 42.7.

The decline in the general index is the biggest since December 1997, when it tumbled 4.6 points in the wake of a series of major financial failures.

The index is calculated according to whether consumers believe their outlooks in five categories will improve, improve somewhat, remain unchanged, deteriorate somewhat, or deteriorate over the coming six months.

Points are assigned to each of the categories, which include overall livelihood, income growth, prices, employment, and willingness to buy durable goods. If all respondents answer “unchanged,” the index shows a reading of 50.

The March survey found that scores fell in four of the five categories.

The employment indicator fell for the second quarter in a row, dropping 7 points to 30.8.

The income growth indicator fell 1.8 points to 40.3, also for the second quarter in a row.

The indicator for overall livelihood declined 2.8 points to 41, while willingness to buy durable goods dropped 5 points to 43.2.

The index for prices — the only bright spot in the quarterly report — came to 44.9, up 1.1 points, reflecting consumer optimism that prices will continue to fall.

The statistics were compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute, the Cabinet Office’s economic research arm.

The March poll covered 5,040 households across the nation, excluding single people and non-Japanese. Written replies were received from 5,036 households.

The consumer confidence index for single-person households as of March 1, was sent to 1,300 households, excluding students. There were 1,290 responses.

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