NEW YORK - The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index increased in February, following a decrease last month. The Index now stands at 70.8 (1985=100), up from 61.5 in January. The Present Situation Index increased to 45 from 38.8, while the Expectations Index rose to 88 from 76.7 in January.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was Feb. 15.

“Consumer Confidence, which had declined last month, posted a sizeable improvement in February,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “The Index is now close to levels last seen a year ago (Feb. 2011, 72). Consumers are considerably less pessimistic about current business and labor market conditions than they were in January. And, despite further increases in gas prices, they are more optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy, job prospects and their financial situation. ”

Consumer assessment of current conditions was more favorable in February, according to the Conference Board. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased slightly to 13.3 percent from 13.2 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” decreased to 31.2 percent from 38.3 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market also was less pessimistic. Those stating jobs are “plentiful” increased to 6.6 percent from 6.2 percent, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” decreased to 38.7 percent from 43.3 percent.

Consumers were more optimistic about the short-term outlook than they were last month, the Conference Board reported. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 18.7 percent from 16.7 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen decreased to 11.8 percent from 14.6 percent.

Consumer outlook for the labor market also was more upbeat. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 18.7 percent from 16.4 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 16.9 percent from 19.1 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes improved to 15.4 percent from 13.8 percent.

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