U.S. consumer sentiment (search) dipped unexpectedly in early March as Americans, worried about a lack of new jobs, grew more cautious about the prospects for the economy, according to a survey released Friday.

The University of Michigan's (search) preliminary reading of consumer sentiment slipped to 94.1 in March from a final reading of 94.4 in February, said market sources who saw the subscriber-only report.

Economists had forecast a slight improvement to 95.0.

The current conditions index rose to 105.7 from 103.6 in February, while the consumer expectations index dropped to 86.6 from 88.5 last month.