Consumer Confidence hits highest level in three years

Respondents more upbeat about economy, but mixed on jobs

The Consumer Confidence Index jumped nearly six points in February to 70.4, its highest level in three years, The Conference Board reported.

The index was up from 64.8 in January, based on a survey done through Feb. 10.

Rising optimism about the future contributed to the gain. The Present Situation Index improved to 33.4 from 31.1 last month, while the Expectations Index increased to 95.1 from 87.3.

"The Consumer Confidence Index is now at a three-year high (it was 76.4 in February 2008) due to growing optimism about  the short-term future," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions has improved moderately, but still remains rather weak. Looking ahead, consumers are more positive about the economy and their income prospects, but feel somewhat mixed about employment conditions."

Consumers' appraisal of present-day conditions improved moderately in February. Those stating business conditions are "good" increased to 12.4% from 11.3%, while those claiming business conditions are "bad" was unchanged at 39.6%.

Consumers' assessment of the labor market was also more positive than in January. Those saying jobs are "plentiful" rose to 4.9% from 4.6%, while those stating jobs are "hard to get" decreased to 45.7% from 47%.

Consumers' short-term outlook was more optimistic than in January. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 24.4% from 24%, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen declined to 10.4% from 12.2%.

Consumers were mixed about the job market. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead edged down to 19.8% from 20.8%, while those anticipating fewer jobs decreased to 15.4% from 21.2%. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes rose to 17.3% from 15.3% in January.

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