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.
American companies are ramping up investment in Juarez, Mexico, after years of drug violence. More
Chinese iCloud users are facing a new wave of attacks -- not from cybercriminals, but from their own government. More
Foreign workers, lured by false promises of good jobs and benefits in America, soon find themselves enslaved in plain sight as victims of labor trafficking, a report from the Urban Institute finds. Here's how it can happen. More