More insight into the psyche of Americans comes from the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index — which dropped yet again.  It signals that, aside from occasional hopeful signs that a recovery is down the road, this economy is sputtering. People can’t find jobs, and the job creators are dispirited and simply treading water. Thus, you have this:

The consumer confidence index, based on a survey conducted Aug. 1 to Aug. 16 with about 500 randomly selected people nationwide, underscored anxiety about the future. Consumer confidence is widely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70% of U.S. economic activity.

In the latest reading, the percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months declined to 16.5% from 19%. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 15.4% from 17.6%, while those expecting fewer jobs rose to 23.4% from 20.6%.

What might this portend for the retail industry? Wells Fargo Securities senior economist Mark Vitner concluded this:

And the index’s drop threatens to put a damper on the two biggest shopping periods of the year for retailers — back-to-school and winter holiday.

“This report is a little disturbing going into the fall,” said Vitner. “Consumers are less optimistic about the future.”

Disturbing indeed.