Consumer sentiment slipped to its lowest level in four months in April, hit by concerns about job security and caution about personal finances as rents and utility bills outpace inflation.

The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI consumer sentiment index fell to 104 in April from 108.1 in March.

In January the index had reached 110.4, its highest level since February 2001.

The April decline reverses an improvement in March and continues a see-saw pattern of monthly changes that reflects the uneven progress of the Irish economic recovery for many consumers.

"While it should be noted that the survey period saw quite a number of new job announcements, there was also news of significant layoffs at a couple of high profile Irish companies that may have focused attention on risks to job security," KBC economist Austin Hughes said.

Mr Hughes said spending on housing and energy, where costs are rising well above an overall inflation rate which has been flat for the past four years, could be erasing other improvements in household finances.

He also noted that the drop in consumer sentiment here in April mirrored declines in similar confidence indicators in the US and the UK. 

"This hints at common global influences that take many forms ranging from future threats to trade to more immediate pressures such as higher energy bills," Mr Hughes said.

Looking ahead, KBC Bank said that consumers' expectations for their household finances over the next 12 months were broadly unchanged in April, with 27% expecting an improvement and 10% envisaging a deterioration. 

Mr Hughes said this suggests the majority of consumers do not see any marked change in their circumstances notwithstanding a marked improvement in aggregate household net worth largely prompted by rising house prices. 

"There is little sense that rising house prices are leading to any notable wealth effect boosting sentiment or spending. However, rising employment and reasonably subdued inflation should see Irish consumer spending increase by about 3% in real terms in 2018," the economist added.