NU Online News Service, Dec. 15, 2004, 5:30 p.m. EST

Many Americans are nervous about the U.S. economy.[@@]

The percentage of Americans who expect the economy to do better in the coming year has dropped to 33%.

A year ago, 47% of Americans were expecting the U.S. economy to improve in 2004.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Minneapolis, has published that data in a report on a survey of 1,002 U.S. adult residents conducted in late November and early December by an outside research firm.

The researchers also found growing pessimism about survey participants’ own finances.

Only 47% of the participants said they thought their finances would improve in the coming year, down from 57% a year ago, Thrivent says.

The researchers also found that 20% of the survey participants are expecting their family income to drop in 2005. That percentage has increased from 10% a year ago.

Thrivent began sponsoring the financial expectations surveys in 1997. This year, consumers’ optimism about their own family income is at the lowest level the surveys have ever recorded, Thrivent says.

Thrivent analysts are blaming the growing pessimissim on rising consumer debt levels, rising health care costs, expectations that interest rates will rise and the falling value of the U.S. dollar.

Women, residents of the Northeast, and participants nearing retirement age were the most pessimistic about their prospects, Thrivent says.