The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, which had improved in January, dropped sharply in February, according to data released by the New York business research organization on Feb. 24. The index stands at 87.3, down nine points from January's 96.4. "Consumers began the year on a high note, but their optimism has quickly given way to caution," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "Consumers remain disheartened with current economic conditions, and at the core of their disenchantment is the labor market." Consumers were less confident about current conditions in February than in the previous month, with the percentage identifying business conditions as "good" declining to 19.3% from 21.9%, while the percentage claiming conditions were bad increased from 22.9% to 25.1%. Consumers also were less optimistic in February than January about business conditions in the next six months, and the percentage expecting more jobs to become available in the next six months dropped to 18.7% from 22%. The Consumer Confidence Index is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.