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Washington (AFP) – U.S. consumers turned sharply more confident about the economy and the job market in December, rebounding from a two-month downturn, The Conference Board reported Tuesday.

The Conference Board consumer confidence index rose to 78.1 from an upwardly revised 72.0 in November.

The October index plunged to 72.4 amid the 16-day government shutdown, from a level of 80.2 in September.

The year-end boom exceeded analysts’ expectations of a 77.1 percent reading.

“Consumer confidence rebounded in December and is now close to pre-government shutdown levels,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board.

The present situation index increased to 76.2 in December, the highest level since April 2008, from 73.5 in November as consumers saw more favorable economic and labor market conditions.

The expectations index increased to 79.4 from 71.1 last month. Looking ahead over the next six months, consumers were more confident in future economic and job prospects, although they were moderately more pessimistic about their earning prospects, Franco said.

“Despite the many challenges throughout 2013, consumers are in better spirits today than when the year began,” she said.

The survey came after the government reported in early December that the U.S. unemployment rate had dropped to a five-year low of 7.0 percent last month and job growth accelerated.

Consumers were more upbeat about the current job market, and were “considerably more optimistic” about the outlook for the labor market, the survey showed.

Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead jumped to 17.1 percent from 13.1 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs decreased to 19.0 percent from 21.4 percent.

“This improvement is in line with our view that the recent drop in confidence, which was driven largely by the October government shutdown, would be short-lived and that stronger labor and housing markets, as well as rising financial asset prices, would continue to push confidence higher over the medium term,” said Cooper Howes of Barclays Research.

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