The consumer confidence index increased in August, rising to 56.9 from an unrevised 51.9 last month, the Conference Board reported yesterday.

Economists polled by IFR Markets predicted the index would rise to 53.0.

The present situation index fell to 63.2 from an upwardly revised 65.8, originally reported as 65.3, while the expectations index increased to 52.8 from a downwardly revised 42.7 last month, originally reported as 43.0.

“Consumer confidence readings suggest that the economy remains stuck in neutral, but may be showing signs of improvement by early next year,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center. “Declines in the present situation index, both in terms of business conditions and the labor market, appear to be moderating. The expectations index, which posted a significant gain this month, suggests better times may be ahead. However, overall readings are still quite low by historical standard and it is still too early to tell if the worst is behind us.”

Business conditions were called “good” by 13.4% of respondents in August, an increase from 13.2% in July. Those saying conditions are “bad” rose to 33.2% from 32.6%.

The percentage of consumers expecting a pickup in business conditions in the next half year rose to 11.9% from 9.2%, while 25.8% said they expect conditions to worsen, down from 32.4% last month.

On the jobs front, those who believe jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 13.1% in August from 13.6% in July, while the number saying jobs are “hard to get” increased to 32.0% this survey from 30.2%. The respondents who see more jobs becoming available in a half year surged to 10.5% from 8.0%. Those expecting fewer jobs to become available sank to 30.6% from 37.3%, the Conference Board reported.

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