Compiled By Jill Jusko The Conference Board Inc.'s Consumer Confidence Index plummeted 16.4 points to 97.6 in September, recording its largest monthly drop since October 1990, when the index fell 23 points. The latest results were released Sept. 25. The ongoing erosion in confidence continues to be fueled by deteriorating labor market conditions and weakening business conditions, says the New York-based business membership and research group. The index is based on results from a monthly consumer confidence survey of 5,000 U.S. households. The index compares monthly results with 1985, when the average index stood at 100. While survey results conducted before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack differed slightly, there was no reversal in the downward trend of the index, the Conference Board said. Consumers rating business conditions as favorable fell from 27.7% to 22.0%, while the percentage of consumers claiming jobs were "hard to get" increased from 16% to 18.5%. Additionally, the percentage of consumers anticipating worsening business conditions increased from 10.7% to 15.0%. "As the economic ramifications of Sept. 11 continue to reverberate in the coming weeks and months, and the number of layoffs continue to rise, the economy faces tougher times ahead," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "While consumers have managed to keep the U.S. out of a recession for several years now, that soon may no longer be the case."