Feb 1, 2014 19:52 Our Views: An upswing from buyers Our Views: An upswing from buyers Advocate story Feb. 01, 2014 Comments With the end of a sometimes difficult 2013, the optimism of the American consumer is likely to be a positive influence on the new year’s economic scene. In its last report of the year, the Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence rose to 78.1 in December, up from 72 in the previous month. The December increase follows three months of declines, and economists said the new number is encouraging for 2014. Still, as the Brookings Institution noted recently, job growth is too slow. The rate of 200,000 jobs a month sounds pretty good, but it could take five years to achieve the dual goals of absorbing all the new entrants in the workforce and returning the unemployment rate to the level before the 2008 Wall Street crash. It’s a somewhat different picture in Louisiana, as industrial construction is likely to continue to boom. Low natural gas prices are fueling expansions, with plant announcements totaling in the billions, not just hundreds of millions. Still, those jobs require considerable training and skills. For many workers, job growth even around here can seem sluggish. We look to 2014 with considerable optimism, but new job growth will be required to keep consumers happy.