The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence index rose from 73.1 in October to 73.7 in November. This is the third consecutive monthly gain in consumer optimism, building up from the 61.3 reading in August. Its current value is the highest since February 2008. The increase in November was due to an improved perception about future expectations, with that component up from 84.0 to 85.1. The assessment of the current economic environment was essentially unchanged.

Consumer surveys are often driven by pocketbook issues, and this case, the principal driver of higher confidence was the labor market. The share of respondents who felt that jobs were “plentiful” rose from 10.4 percent to 11.2 percent. It had been just 7.2 percent in August. Still, the public recognizes that the unemployment rate remains too high. The percentage who said that jobs were “hard to get” was unchanged at 38.8 percent. In addition, those anticipating higher income declined from 16.7 percent to 15.9 percent. This suggests room for improvement, with the overall index continuing to be sub-par even with recent gains.

In this survey, though, buying intentions were mixed. There was a slight increase in the percentage of respondents planning to purchase a home or appliances, but auto spending plans declined. Inflation expectations also eased somewhat.

Chad Moutray is chief economist, National Association of Manufacturers.

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