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Data: The Conference Board; Chart: Axios Visuals

Confidence is returning to U.S. consumers as the government ramps up big spending programs that are putting money directly in Americans' bank accounts and COVID-19 vaccinations increase.

Why it matters: The return of confidence itself is reassuring, but more economists also are expecting that a major increase in hiring this month is behind the improvement.

Driving the news: The Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose to its highest in a year, jumping nearly 20 points from its February level.

  • Both the present situation index and the expectations index bounced from around 90 in February to 110 in March.
  • The percentage of consumers who said jobs are "plentiful" increased to 26.3% from 21.6% last month, while those claiming jobs are "hard to get" fell to 18.5% from 22.4%.

Yes, but: Americans are much less enthusiastic about their own economic prospects — just 15.5% of consumers expect their incomes to rise in the next six months, up modestly from 14.8% in February.

  • And the number who expect their income to decrease in the next six months actually rose to 13.3%, up slightly from 12.9% last month.

What we're seeing: "The improvement in the Present Situation was also likely tied to rebounding labor market conditions," Thomas Simons, money market economist at Jefferies, said in a note.

What to watch: Simons and Jefferies' economists are expecting "a significantly stronger rebound" for jobs this month, predicting Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls report will show 765,000 jobs were added in March.

  • "This is corroborated by our real-time activity tracker which has shown the strongest activity since the onset of the pandemic in recent weeks in terms of travel and restaurant bookings," Simons noted.

Go big or go home: Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at tax advisory firm RSM, is predicting the U.S. will see 1 million jobs added in March, "with a risk to the upside, as the economic recovery begins to take shape."

Of note: Wall Street economists on average are expecting a gain of 614,000 jobs, a significant increase from February's 379,000.

Go deeper

Home prices saw largest annual gain in nearly 15 years

Expand chart
Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Home prices saw the biggest annual gain in close to 15 years this January, according to the Case-Shiller index.

The big picture: Phoenix, Seattle and San Diego saw the highest year-over-year home price gains.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.