Consumer Confidence Index returns to pre-recession level

Thanks in part to a big gain in November, a measure of consumer confidence has returned to pre-recession levels.

The Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index jumped 6.3 points to 107.1 That’s the highest level since the index stood at 111.9 in July 2007.

The increase comes in the midst of the holiday shopping. “With the holiday season  upon us, a more confidence consumer should be welcome news for retailers,”  said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board.

The business research and membership association bases the index on results of monthly household surveys. Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the country.

Upbeat assessments of current conditions as well as more optimistic expectations for the near future bolstered the index, Franco said. “While the majority of  consumers were surveyed before the presidential election, it appears from the small sample of post-election responses that consumers’ optimism was not impacted by the outcome,” she added.

For November, more upbeat assessments of business and labor conditions pushed the present situation component of the Consumer Confidence Index up 7.2 points to 130.3.

The portion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the index was based who described business conditions as “good”  rose 2.7 points to 29.2 percent. The share of those who characterized conditions as “bad” fell 2.5 points to 14.8 percent.

The portion of consumers who called jobs “plentiful” rose 1.6 points to 26.9 percent. The share of those who said jobs are “hard to get” remained unchanged at 21.7 percent.

A more upbeat outlook pushed up the expectations component of the index 5.7 points to 91.7.

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell 1.1 points to 15.3 percent. But the proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions fell more — 1.8 points to 10 percent.

The share of consumers who believe more jobs will become available in coming months held steady at 14.5 percent. But the proportion of those expecting fewer jobs fell 2.8 points to 13.8 percent.

While 17.5 percent of consumers said they expect their incomes to increase, unchanged for a third straight month, 9 percent said they anticipate lower incomes, down 1.2 points.