The Conference Board’s confidence index rose to 57.9, reaching the highest level since Lehman Brothers Inc. collapsed in September 2008, according to data from the New York-based private research group. The measure averaged 97 during the last expansion.
Americans’ outlook for the next six months climbed to the highest level since October 2007, two months before the recession began, as almost one in every five people polled thought the world’s largest economy and employment would improve.
Pessimism is starting to abate after employers boosted payrolls in three of the past five months. More job growth will be needed to spark bigger gains in confidence, incomes and spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.
The Conference Board’s confidence measure of present conditions rose this month to the highest level since May. The gauge of expectations for the next six months jumped to 77.4 from 70.4.
The share of respondents expecting more jobs to become available rose to a seven-month high of 18 percent from 14.1 percent. Nonetheless, the proportion of people who expect their incomes to rise over the next six months dropped to 10.3 percent from 10.8 percent.
The Conference Board’s report stood in contrast to a preliminary survey by Reuters/University of Michigan issued earlier this month, which showed sentiment unexpectedly dropped as Americans fretted about jobs and health care.
Another report showed home prices climbed less than forecast, a sign the housing recovery will take time to develop. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities rose 0.6 percent in February from the same month last year.
Home prices in February were 30 percent below the peak reached in July 2006, the report showed. Mounting foreclosures are likely to pressure prices for much of the year.