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Associated Press
The consumer confidence index rose to 90.9 in July, according to a Conference Board report. As consumers become more optimistic, they tend to spend more, such as this family shopping at a Costco in Plano, Texas, which in turn fuels the economy..

Confidence hits highest in 7 years

Strong gains in jobs mean many have more to spend

WASHINGTON – U.S. consumer confidence this month reached its highest point in nearly seven years, boosted by strong job gains.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index rose for a fourth consecutive month to 92.4 from 90.3 in July. The August reading is the highest since October 2007, two months before the recession officially began.

The optimism suggests that Americans will be more likely to spend in the months ahead, an important boost to the economy. Consumer spending drives about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

“Enthusiastic households are more like­ly to open their wallets in the coming months and support solid output growth in the second half of the year,” said Gregory Daco, an economist at Oxford Economics.

The survey found that Americans' outlook on the job market brightened considerably. The percentage of respondents who said jobs were “plentiful” rose to 18.2 percent from 15.6 percent in July. That's the highest level since 2008.

The “substantial improvement in August points to another strong employment report next week,” said Ted Wieseman, an economist at Morgan Stanley.

The government's jobs report for August, to be released next week, will show whether hiring was strong for a seventh consecutive month.

Steady hiring this year has provided more Americans with paychecks to spend. Employers have added an average of 230,000 jobs a month, up from about 195,000 a month in 2013.

Average monthly job gains since February have produced the best six-month stretch since 2006.

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