WASHINGTON -- Consumer confidence surged in February as the improving job market offset concerns about higher taxes and looming federal spending cuts, according to a leading private barometer.
The monthly consumer sentiment index from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan rose 5.1% last month from January. The new reading of 77.6 also was up 3.1% from a year earlier.
“Consumer confidence continued to improve in February due to expected gains in employment," said Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist. "These expected job gains have partially offset concerns about higher payroll taxes and the impending reduction in federal spending."
Although the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9% in January, the economy added 157,000 new jobs and figures for the last three months of 2012 were revised sharply upward. Weekly jobless claims have been trending down.