Consumers feeling merrier for the holidays

Consumers are feeling merry and bright this holiday season, a new survey said on Wednesday.

Confidence rose to 55.2 from 54.3 in November, as consumers were more upbeat about jobs amid a pick up in holiday hiring, according to a Thomson Reuters/Ipsos index.

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Confidence and retail sales are improved in recent months after being muted for most of the year.

"The retail holiday hiring has boosted the employment numbers and consumers feel upbeat,”  said Jharonne Martis, director of Consumer Research at Thomson Reuters.

“Nonetheless, 2016 is an election year and history has shown that in times of uncertainty, consumers do pull back on spending," Martis said.

Still, despite the improvement, confidence has has remained flat compared with sentiment a year ago.

All four components of the survey showed improvement, too, with jobs showing the most positive movement.

The jobs index rose 2.2 points to 65.3 in December, driven primarily by positive jobs gains in the past month.

Job security has rebounded and was most likely pushed up by temporary holiday hiring.

Employers added 211,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate held at 5 percent, the government reported last week, boosting the feelings expressed by consumers in the survey.

Meanwhile, consumers feel better about current conditions, which showed an increase to 46.8 from 45.5, with shoppers showing a greater willingness to buy holiday gifts.

Expectations also rose slightly — to 62.6 from 62.2 — with a more positive outlook on the local economy.

However, concerns about personal finances are holding back further improvement. 

The investment index was unchanged with consumers feeling slightly better about their ability to invest for the future. That increase though was offset by concerns about their personal financial health.