Consumer confidence on Long Island dropped in the July-September period on worries about the economy and the prospect of the U.S. government shutting down, officials said Wednesday.

The Siena College Research Institute reported its consumer confidence index for Nassau and Suffolk counties declined 3.4 points to 71.3 in the third quarter compared with the April-June period.

An index reading below 76 points indicates the number of people who are pessimistic about their financial well-being exceeds those who are optimistic. The latest confidence-index number is the lowest since the 70.2 points recorded in the third quarter of 2012.

The new figures "reflect a quarter that saw some hopeful signs but ended with fear over the federal shutdown and pending debt ceiling standoff," Siena pollster Douglas Lonnstrom said.

Disagreements over spending and Obamacare have led to a partial closure of the U.S. government for more than a week. They also could cause Uncle Sam to default on loans and other obligations if the debt ceiling isn't raised by Oct. 17.

Of New York State's nine regions, Lonnstrom said, only Buffalo saw its consumer confidence rise in the July-September period compared with earlier this year.

Retailers closely follow consumer confidence indexes because they can signal a willingness by shoppers to open their wallets. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity on Long Island and across the country.

The number of Long Islanders telling Siena they plan to buy an automobile or home in the next six months increased in the third quarter. Fewer people said they expect to purchase furniture or start a major home improvement project.

Siena conducted more than 400 interviews locally.

At the Westfield Sunrise Mall in Massapequa Wednesday, some shoppers expressed concern, and in a few cases fear, about economic fallout from the shutdown and potential credit default.

Maryann Schwartz, a retired teacher from Farmingdale, said she was worried that Congress is "going to wreck the economy. I'm really afraid the stock market is going to crash and we'll have another recession. We haven't gotten over the last one yet."

Latest Videos

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access