Consumer confidence rises on hiring advance

Washington, D.C. -- A report released Thursday by Bloomberg showed that consumer sentiment climbed last week and U.S. companies added more workers than projected in December.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to minus 31.8 in the period ended Dec. 30, its highest since April, from minus 32.1 a week earlier, according to the report. Figures from the ADP Research Institute showed a 215,000 increase in employment, the largest since February, while the Labor Department said more Americans filed claims for jobless benefits last week.

“The economy is growing quite well,” David Sloan, a New York-based senior economist at 4Cast Inc., told Bloomberg. “The labor market seems to be expanding at a fairly solid pace. Consumer spending will continue to grow, but slowly.”

The pickup in U.S. hiring may be helping to boost Americans’ confidence. For the year, the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index climbed 12.9 points, the biggest annual improvement since 1998.

Last week’s gains were broad-based, indicating even wealthier households were less concerned about tax increases and fiscal policy challenges heading into 2013. The report showed sentiment among Americans earning $100,000 or more was the highest in more than two years.

For all of 2012, the comfort index averaged minus 38.1, the highest since 2007. Nonetheless, it remains below its long-term average of minus 15.8.