07/26/2011 07:18 EDT | Updated 09/25/2011 05:12 EDT

Consumer Confidence Falls, As Faith In Canadian Economy Falters: Conference Board Of Canada Survey


OTTAWA - Consumer confidence in Canada's economy fell for the third straight month in July as people worried about jobs and were less willing to make large purchases, the Conference Board of Canada said Tuesday.

The think-tank's consumer confidence index dropped 1.8 points to 81.3.

Consumers were uncertain they would have jobs in the future and therefore whether they would have enough money to pay for items bought on credit, the Conference Board said in a report.

"The bulk of consumer pessimism this month came from the outlook for future job opportunities -- despite the fact that the Canadian economy has generated nearly 200,000 jobs since the start of the year," the report said.

More consumers felt they were better off financially than six months ago, the report added. But overall, negative responses continued to outnumbered positive ones, which has been the case since fall of 2008.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty played down those concerns at a news conference in Burlington, Ont., on Tuesday.

"We're seeing moderate growth in the Canadian economy, which is important and reflects a degree of consumer confidence," he said. "It is moderate growth, it's not large growth."

Consumers' unwillingness to buy in July could be a sign they are finally listening to his warnings that Canadians already have too much debt.

"I think there's some sense among some consumers that they should control the amount of debt that they're carrying," he said. "This is a good thing."

Flaherty has been stressing this issue for months.

He'd like to see Canadians rein in the amount of debt they have on their mortgages, since they will have to pay more if interest rates go up.

"It makes sense to me that Canadians would start making sure their economic houses, their fiscal houses, are in order."

The outlook of Canadian consumers differed when it came to geographical regions of the country, the Conference Board's report showed.

Confidence grew in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, but fell in Ontario and Western Canada.