Consumer confidence in the U.S. climbed more than projected in December as Americans’ views of current economic conditions jumped to the highest level since April 2008.

Bloomberg reported that the Conference Board’s index rose to 78.1 from a revised 72 a month earlier that was stronger than initially estimated, the New York-based private research group said today. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a gain to 76.

Americans are growing upbeat about the economy as household finances improve on the heels of more hiring, rising property values and stock-market gains. Increased optimism along with greater wealth will help underpin the consumer spending that makes up almost 70% of the economy, providing a boost to the expansion.

“The consumer will continue to do some of the heavy lifting for the economy,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The job market is better. Stock prices are rising. The odds of another round of political brinksmanship are lower.”

Estimates of 59 economists in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 71 to 81.2 after a previously reported November reading of 70.4. The index averaged 53.7 in the recession that ended in June 2009.