Consumer confidence in the U.S. economy rose in January to the highest level since July 2002 as Americans grew more optimistic about their prospects later this year, according to reports from private research group the Conference Board.
The group said its index of consumer confidence rose to 96.8 in January from a revised 91.7 in December. The percentage of people who expected better business conditions and more hiring in six months also rose, it said.
Assessments of current economic conditions were not as strong, however, because the economy is having trouble creating jobs.
"People are more optimistic, but the consumer is still worried about their job situation," a Conference Board economist, Delos Smith, said. "Jobs, jobs, jobs is everybody's concern."
Economists had forecast a jump in the sentiment index to 98.5 in January from 91.3 last month. The last time the index was this high was in July 2002, when it was 97.4.
The index measuring sentiment about the economy rose to 80, from 74.3 in December, restrained by labor market worries, the Conference Board said. The number of people who thought jobs were easy to obtain fell 0.2 percentage points, to 12.4 percent, and the number who said jobs were not plentiful now rose to 56.2 percent, from 55 percent.
The expectations index rose to 108.1, the highest since May 2002, from 103.3 and lifted the overall index.
Twenty-two percent said business conditions were good, up from 18.6 percent in December, while those who considered business conditions \ bad fell to 22.8 percent, from 24.5 percent.
The gauge of people who said jobs would become easier to find by July rose to 22.2 in January, from 21.6, and the percentage who said jobs would be harder to find fell to 14.9, from 16.9. The percentage expecting their incomes to decline fell to 8.8, from 10.2, the Conference Board found. (Bloomberg News)
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