WASHINGTON (AFP) - US consumer confidence plunged to its worst level in five months on concerns over unemployment amid an uncertain economic outlook, according to a closely-watched survey released Tuesday. The Conference Board, a business research firm, said its consumers confidence index, which had declined sharply in June, retreated further this month. The index fell to 50.4 points from 54.3 last month, based on a survey of 5,000 US households, the firm said in a statement. It is now at its lowest level since Feb. Most economists had expected the index to fall to 51.0 points in July. Consumer confidence faded further in July as consumers continue to grow increasingly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook, said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Boards consumer research center. Concerns about business conditions and the labor market are casting a dark cloud over consumers that is not likely to lift until the job market improves, Franco said. High unemployment, only modest wage growth and a credit crunch has put household finances under pressure as US economic growth slows. The economy emerged in the middle of last year from a brutal recession that struck in December 2007, but growth has eased with some analysts worrying about a double-dip recession. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke warned last week that the economic outlook was unusually uncertain, saying the central bank could step in if the recovery failed. Looking at the details of the July report, it is very clear that the employment situation and fears of a double-dip weighed heavily on consumer attitudes, analysts at Briefing.com said in a client note. The number of respondents in the Conference Board reporting that jobs are hard to get was at the highest levels since March. Typically this would suggest a rise in the unemployment rate, said analyst Aneta Markowska at Societe Generale. Confidence and employment weakness continue to be a major headwind in this recovery and a factor keeping the Fed on hold for the foreseeable future, she said. The central bank has held rates at virtually zero percent since December 2008. Analysts said the weaker confidence numbers did not necessarily mean a lack of consumption growth. Overall, we continue to expect personal spending to remain steady, Briefing.com analysts said. One encouraging sign in Tuesdays report was that the percent of respondents planning to buy automobiles and major appliances inched higher in July, said Barclays Capital Research analyst Theresa Chen. Meanwhile, the US Treasury on Tuesday promised it would come up with ideas to reform the troubled state-backed mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by Jan. In a statement, the Obama administration said it would work toward a comprehensive housing finance reform proposal for delivery to Congress by January 2011.