U.S. consumer sentiment declined slightly in early March, with Americans less positive about the job outlook, a survey released on Friday showed.

The reading, however, stayed close to its six-month average, and was significantly above the year-ago level, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's Surveys of Consumers.

The preliminary March reading for the surveys' overall index on consumer sentiment was 72.5, down from 73.6 where it ended in February, and below the 73.6 forecast by analysts polled by Reuters.

In early March, consumers were expecting no change in the national rate of unemployment, which stands at 9.7 percent, for the rest of 2010, and were losing confidence in help from government economic policies.

In recent months there has been a noticeable loss of confidence in current economic policies, Richard Curtin, director of the surveys, said in a statement.

The March reading was just a tad below the six-month average of 72, and up strongly from 57.3 in March 2009.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)