NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Americans got slightly more optimistic about the economy in October, but still have an overwhelmingly gloomy outlook, according to the latest reading on consumer morale.
The Consumer Confidence Index rose to 50.2 in October, up from 48.6 in September, the Conference Board, a New York-based research group that compiles the index, said Tuesday.
High unemployment and unfavorable business conditions have dragged the index down to a painfully low level, far below 90 -- the level which indicates a stable economy. Overall, the index has been volatile, not trending in any one direction for more than three months in a row this year.
"Consumer confidence, while slightly improved from September levels, is still hovering at historically low levels," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center said in a release.
Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected the index to barely tick up to 49, so the news was a bit better than expected.
In October, the number of consumers calling business conditions "bad" outweighed those saying conditions are "good" by nearly five to one, slightly better than the month before, when that ratio was six to one.
Those saying jobs are "hard to get" rose, still far outnumbering those who say jobs are "plentiful."
Consumers continued to have a predominantly gloomy attitude about both future employment prospects and business conditions, but were slightly more optimistic on those fronts than last month.
The consumer confidence index is based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households and is closely monitored because consumer spending drives two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.
Nike is opening up shop on Amazon.com and the company plans "big shifts" over the coming year. More
The longest war in U.S. history has racked up a tab of between $841 billion to $2 trillion since 2001, depending on the factors counted. More
78-year-old businessman Peter Sprague shares his latest invention as part of CNN Tech's "Tech versus Taboos" series: HearGlass, a hearing amplification device embedded into eyeglasses. More
In 1998, Ntsiki Biyela won a scholarship to study wine making. Now she's about to launch her own brand. More