08/27/2013 10:19 EDT | Updated 10/27/2013 05:12 EDT

US consumer confidence rises in August near 5-year high on better outlook for next 6 months.

WASHINGTON - Americans' confidence in the economy inched closer to a 5 1/2-year high on growing optimism that hiring and wages could pick up in coming months.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 81.5 in August. That's up from a revised reading of 81 in July. And it's just below the 82.1 reading in June, which was the highest since January 2008.

Consumers' confidence in the economy is watched closely because their spending accounts for about 70 per cent of U.S. economic activity.