WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer confidence rebounded strongly in October, hitting a seven-year high as solid job gains raised expectations for economic growth.
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index climbed to 94.5, the strongest reading since October 2007 and the start of the Great Recession a few months later. This month's gains reversed a revised decline to 89 in September from 93.4 in August.
Job gains and falling gasoline prices have helped to improve sentiment, despite muted economic growth in Europe and China that has fueled volatility in financial markets.
Steady hiring and fewer layoffs over the past 12 months have pushed unemployment lower. Employers added 248,000 jobs in September, helping to push the unemployment rate down to 5.9 percent from as high as 7.2 percent at the beginning of the year. The new jobs mean more paychecks, which should lead to more spending and overall economic growth.
Economists project that the gains should continue into October with the addition of 235,000 more jobs, according to the data firm FactSet.
Also, Americans are likely feeling less depleted after a trip to the gas pump. Average gas prices have fallen 31 cents in the past month to $3.03 a gallon, according to the AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, freeing up cash to spend elsewhere.
Still, shopping failed accelerate much in September.
Purchases of clothing dropped 1.2 percent last month and spending on building materials fell 1.1 percent, while auto-buying dipped after surging in August, the Commerce Department reported.