WASHINGTON – The private Conference Board reports on consumer confidence for August at 10 a.m. Eastern Tuesday.
LESS CONFIDENCE: Economists forecast that consumer confidence fell this month to a reading of 88.8, according to a survey by FactSet, down from 90.9 in July. Last month's figure was the highest in nearly seven years.
STILL POSITIVE: Strong hiring this year has provided more Americans with paychecks and boosted confidence in the overall economy.
Lower gasoline prices have also probably helped. The average price of a gallon of gas nationwide Monday was $3.44, the lowest in nearly six months, according to AAA.
In July, consumers expected the job market to keep improving: Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 19.1 percent, up from 16.3 percent in June. And 15.9 percent said that jobs were plentiful, up from 14.6 percent the previous month.
Confidence bottomed during the Great Recession in February 2009 at 25.3 before beginning its current upward swing. While the index still hasn't returned to full health, it is well above last year's average of 72.3. In the 20 years before the downturn, the index averaged nearly 102.
Consumers' attitudes are closely watched because their spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
Consumers in July registered the most favorable assessment of current business conditions since March 2008, and their outlook for the next six months rose to highest level since August 2013.
Better hiring has helped brighten Americans' outlook. Employers have added an average of 230,000 jobs a month this year, up from about 195,000 a month in 2013. Average monthly job gains in the six months since February have been the best since 2006.
The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.2 percent in July from 6.1 percent in June. But that was because more Americans began looking for work. While most didn't immediately find jobs, the increase suggests they are more confident about their prospects.