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The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to 91.7 in November, up from a revised 81.7 in October. The index number was the highest since September 2002, and ahead of the 85.0 that had been projected by analysts.

The number of consumers who say jobs are “hard to get” declined during November to 29.5 percent from 33.7 percent, according to the Conference Board. Those who indicate jobs are plentiful increased to 13.2 percent from 11.8 percent.

Lynn Franco, director of the board’s consumer research center, said that the numbers suggest that "consumers believe a slow but sure labor market turnaround is underway. The rise in expectations is a signal that consumers will end this year much more upbeat than when the year began."

This optimism seems also to be reflected by the varying reports that the economy added 125,000 jobs in September and another 126,000 positions in October, while unemployment claims are on the decline.

Meanwhile, in another generally accepted index, the University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment for November rose to 93.7 from October's final reading of 89.6.
KC's View:
At the risk of seeming cynical and pessimistic, we need to point out that this consumer confidence is built like a house of cards. A stuff wind of cold reality, like a terrorist attack on these shores or some sort of massive loss of soldiers in Iraq, could bring it tumbling down.

The New York Times has an interesting piece this morning noting that "in recent years, the effect of widespread joblessness on consumption patterns in the United States has been tough to recognize, largely because so many people, employed as well as unemployed, have relied heavily upon credit cards, mortgage refinancings and other loans to sustain spending that might otherwise have been unaffordable."

But even if the economy gets better and jobs become more available, there is a lot of "personal economic pain for those who have long been unemployed (that) will be long lasting." In other words, the economy didn’t go as low as it might have under other circumstances…but it isn’t likely to get as robust as might be expected, either.