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Consumer confidence hits highest level in 18 months, survey shows

April 27, 2010 |  9:11 am

Consumer confidence rose last month to its highest level in 18 months, according to the monthly index released Tuesday by the Conference Board in New York.

The index jumped to 57.9 this month from 52.3 in March, the research group said in a statement. The latest figure is the highest level the index has hit since September 2008.

"Consumers’ concerns about current business and labor-market conditions eased again. And their outlook regarding business conditions and the labor market was also more positive than last month," said Lynn Franco, director of the group's consumer research center.

But the survey also said consumers would need to hear more solid, good news about the U.S. economic recovery to move the index higher.

"Looking ahead, continued job growth will be key in sustaining positive momentum," Franco said.

The index is a key barometer for the nation's economic health because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy.

The percentage of participants in the monthly survey of about 5,000 U.S. households who said conditions were "good" increased to 9.1% from 8.5%, while those claiming business conditions were "bad" fell to 40.2% from 42.1%.

Participants also were feeling more at ease about the job market, the survey said. Those saying jobs were "plentiful" increased to 4.8%, from 4%, while those who felt jobs were still "hard to get" fell to  45%, from 46.3%.

Those surveyed also were feeling a little more hopeful about the future, the Conference Board said. The number of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 19.8% from 18%. Those expecting conditions to worsen fell to 12.6%, from 13.6%.

-- Ronald D. White