The Ottawa-based forecaster's index, based on surveys conducted in the first weeks of December, dropped by 2.4 points from the previous month to 77.9.
That was still eight points above where it was at the end of 2011 but lower than before the 2008-9 recession, the Conference Board said Friday.
Among other things, it found an elevated concern about future job prospects and the Canadian economy in general — although respondents indicated slightly less concern about their current financial situation.
"The percentage of respondents who said they expect more jobs in their area decreased 0.8 points to 16.6 per cent, while the share that expect fewer jobs climbed 1.5 points to 21.1 per cent," the board found.
"When asked if they felt they were better or worse off financially today than they were six months ago, 17 per cent of respondents said they were better off — up 0.4 percentage points from last month," the board's analysis says.
There was a corresponding decline of 0.4 of a percentage point to 19.1 per cent in the number of people who felt they were currently worse off than six months earlier but the report noted "negative responses continue to outnumber positive ones by a significant margin, much as they did for all of 2012."
"Survey results also indicated a considerable amount of trepidation about future finances," it said.
"The share of respondents who said they expect their financial situation to worsen over the next six months now stands at 17.4 per cent, which is 2.8 percentage points higher than last month and no better than it was one year ago."
In addition, it said the share of respondents who said they expect their finances to improve over the same period dropped 0.8 points to 23 per cent.
"Attitudes toward major purchases recorded a minor improvement," the report says.
"Consumers are asked if they feel that now is a good or bad time to purchase a car, home, or other major item. This month, 39.3 per cent said it is a good time—up from 38.5 per cent in November. But optimistic responses continue to be far outnumbered by negative ones, with 48.7 per cent answering that now is a bad time to make a major purchase — a concern for holiday shopping."
The latest survey was conducted between Dec. 6 and Dec. 18. The index uses 2002 as a base of 100.
The overall December national reading of 77.9 was down from 80.3 in November and 81.1 in October.
On a regional basis, Quebec and Ontario had the lowest December readings (64.1 and 68.4, respectively). the highest readings were British Columbia (109.4) and the Prairies (97.4). The Atlantic region was above the national number at 79.8.