Consumer confidence plunged in August to the lowest level since April 2009, according to the Conference Board. The private research group surveys up to 5,000 consumers each month. They are asked five questions about business conditions, jobs and pay. Their answers are used to calculate the Consumer Confidence Index.

Among the questions consumers are asked:

_ Do you feel business conditions are good or bad?

_ Do you feel jobs are hard to get or plentiful?

_ Do you think business conditions will improve or worsen over the next six months?

_ Do you think jobs will increase or decrease over the next six months?

_ Do you expect your household income to increase or decrease over the next six months?

The survey also asks consumers whether they plan to make major purchases in the next six months, such as a home, car or appliance. It also asks them whether they plan a vacation.