A new survey has shown that US consumer confidence soared in May to its highest level in eight months, though Americans' mood remained depressed by historical standards.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes jumped to 54.9 in May from a revised 40.8 in April, the biggest one-month jump since April 2003. Analyst had expected a much smaller rise to 42.

Fewer Americans said jobs were 'hard to get', the survey found, with that measure slipping to 44.7% from 46.6%. Those saying jobs were plentiful climbed to a still meagre 5.7%, but that was still higher than March's 4.9%.

'Consumers are considerably less pessimistic than they were earlier this year,' said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research centre.

The powerful revival in consumer confidence in May came three months after the index hit bottom in February, diving to 25.3 points for the first time since tracking of the seasonally adjusted data began in 1967.

In May, almost all of the surge in confidence was in the short-term outlook, and consumers saw just moderate improvement in current conditions.

'While confidence is still weak by historical standards, as far as consumers are concerned, the worst is now behind us,' said Franco. She said that the survey signalled that economic growth in the second quarter 'is likely to be less negative than in the first'.