Although consumer confidence ebbed for the third month running in December, most Britons remain confident about their jobs, now and in the future, and have become perceptibly less reluctant to spend money.

These seemingly conflicting findings from Nationwide's consumer confidence survey, indicate that the Bank of England's interest rate cut early last month has had limited impact on widespread caution arising from economic uncertainty and higher food and petrol prices.

The building society's headline index number slipped another point between November and December to 85, the lowest finding since last February.

This was mirrored by KPMG's latest Report on Jobs, which showed the number of appointments still increasing - but in the case of permanent jobs at the slowest pace for four-and-a-half years.

"As the full impact of the credit crunch on the economy is still uncertain, businesses are becoming more cautious," noted Renu Birla, director within KPMG People Services in Birmingham. "There is even speculation of redundancies within specific sectors such as HR and investment banking."

A more upbeat assessment came from Helen Reynolds, acting chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation.

"Factors such as the imminent change in workforce demographics and the need to replace retiring employees mean employers will need to rely on temporary and permanent employees to meet resourcing challenges, keeping the labour market buoyant," she said.

"Skills shortages remain a challenge. With welfare reform firmly on the Govern-ment's agenda, the key focus for 2008 must be employability."

The Nationwide survey showed that while individuals feel confident about their own job prospects and household incomes - 90 per cent think they will have more money in six months - they are increasingly uneasy about the present economic and employment situation generally.

The sub-index measuring this dropped by three points to 88, and 42 per cent think the British economy will be worse by June.

Yet the number feeling positive about the future employment situation has jumped by nearly ten per cent year on year to 44 per cent.

At the same time, willingness to spend money picked up by five points during December, although at 68 this index still remains well below an average of 82 over the course of 2007.

Within this, consumers are still reluctant to splash out on a major purchase, with 58 per cent thinking now is a bad time to buy something such as a house or car, ten per cent more than last December.

"Continued uncertainty about the future path of the economy along with a weakening housing market was bound to affect consumer sentiment," said Nationwide's chief economist Fionnuala Earley.

"Further rate cuts expected in the first quarter of 2008 may help to improve matters, but it is likely to be a few months before consumer confidence recovers."

Expectations for rising house prices continued to fall. Overall, consumers expect the cost of a home to rise by just 0.7 per cent during the coming six months, down from predictions of gains of 1.2 per cent in November.