Job gains boost confidence

Job gains boost confidence
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Steady improvement in the job market boosted consumer confidence in December, a new survey showed on Tuesday.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index increased to 96.5 this month from 92.6 in November with consumers saying they are feeling better about current and future conditions heading into the new year. 

"As 2015 draws to a close, consumers' assessment of the current state of the economy remains positive, particularly their assessment of the job market," said Lynn Franco, the group's director of economic indicators.

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"Looking ahead to 2016, consumers are expecting little change in both business conditions and the labor market," Franco said. 

The present situation index increased to 115.3 in December from 110.9 last month while the expectations index rose to 83.9 from 80.4 in November.

Consumers are anticipating more jobs in the months ahead, but there is nagging concern about wage increases, which have been slow to accelerate even amid solid job creation this year. 

Consumers saying that jobs are "plentiful" increased to 24.1 from 21 while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” decreased to 24.7 from 25.8.

Economists argue that wage gains should pick up as the labor market tightens through the first half of next year.

Employers added 211,000 jobs in November and gains over the past year have averaged 237,000 a month. The unemployment rate is holding at 5 percent. 

The final jobs report for the year is due out Jan. 8

A separate report last week said that December's consumer confidence rose to the highest level since July, the University of Michigan survey showed. 

That survey credited the improvement to lower inflation — average gas prices are hovering around $2 a gallon — giving consumers more money to spend on other purchases.