Americans, worried about climbing gas prices and disappearing job opportunities, see their personal economic situations in increasingly negative terms, according to the monthly Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index.

The April index slid to a reading of 62.3, a drop of 3.6 percentage points from the March report. Consumers appear to be particularly skittish about their current status; the "present situation index" component of this economic indicator plunged to 80.7 from March's reading of 90.6.

Such worries are influencing spending decisions; the share of Americans planning a vacation for sometime in the coming six months fell to a 30-year low, according to Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. Many (26.7 percent) say business conditions are "bad" and jobs are "hard to get" (27.9 percent). Only 15.1 percent expect their incomes to increase in the next six months. 

Alison Rice is a contributing editor to Builder Online.