Despite widespread concern over the nation's unemployment statistics, US consumers in January displayed their highest level of confidence since the summer of 2002, reports nonprofit business-research group the Conference Board.

Based on an benchmark of 100 in 1985, the Board's consumer confidence index for January rose to 96.8 from a revised 91.7 for December. However, even this cheering figure failed to meet economists' consensus expectation of a 98 reading, according to a survey conducted by Dow Jones Newswires.

The consumer-expectations index for economic activity over the next six months rose to 108.1 from a revised 103.3.The data reflects the public's future expectations.

Their assessment of current circumstances was equally upbeat, with the Board's present-situation index rising to 80 this month from a revised 74.3 for December.

But caution was the keynote on the employment front. Those who said jobs were hard to get fell to 31.4% in January from 32.4% in the previous month -- above levels reached in November and a year earlier. Meanwhile, those who found jobs plentiful fell slightly to 12.4% from 12.6% in December and 13.5% in November.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff