Index: Consumers enter 2014 in better spirits

A monthly measure of consumer confidence has rebounded on more upbeat assessments of current business and labor conditions as well as a more optimistic expectations.

The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index jumped more than six points to 78.1 in December.

The latest reading moves closer to the 80.2 reported in September, before a partial federal government shutdown and two subsequent months of declines.

“Despite the many challenges throughout 2013, consumers are in better spirits today than when the year began,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

The Conference Board, a business research and membership association, bases the index on the results of monthly surveys of U.S. households.

Economists closely monitor the index because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the country.

The present situation component of the index increased nearly three points to 76.2, the highest reading since April 2008.

The share of consumers responding to the survey upon which the December index was based who called businesses conditions “good” edged down nearly a point to 19.6 percent. But the proportion of those calling conditions “bad” dropped four points to 22.6 percent.

The share of consumers who said jobs are “plentiful” ticked up two-tenths of a point to 12.2 percent. The proportion of those calling jobs “hard to get” fell nearly two points to 32.5 percent.

A more upbeat outlook pulled up the expectations component of the index more than eight points to 79.4.

The share of consumers who expect business conditions to improve over the next six months rose a half point to 17.2 percent. The proportion of those anticipating worsening conditions fell more than two points to 14 percent.

The proportion of consumers who expect more jobs to become available in the months ahead advanced nearly four points to 17.1 percent. The share of those anticipating fewer jobs retreated more than two points to 19 percent.

The proportions of consumers expecting increasing and decreasing income both declined.