Consumer confidence is at its highest level for 18 months, despite consumers remaining anxious about the possibility of unemployment.

The British Retail Consortium’s monthly consumer confidence index, published with market research company Nielsen, is at 75 - some 10 points higher than the all-time low of 65 recorded in April.

The survey reveals that confidence lags behind the levels reported two or three years ago, but the BRC said that the improvement would encourage retailers.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “These figures suggest it will be a long, slow climb out of recession for many customers but some do now have their feet on the first rung of the ladder.

“There’s no question the general mood of customers is better than a year ago, when conditions were dire, but improvement has been slow so far.”

More than three-quarters of consumers, some 77%, believe that job prospects are “bad” or “not so good”, the main sentiment holding back confidence.

A fifth of people believe job prospects will be “good” or “excellent” over the next 12 months compared with just 14% in June.

The survey suggests that worries unemployment mean people still in employment are working harder and there has been an increase in people feeling their work/life balance is their biggest concern, to 9% now compared with 4% a year ago.

Nielsen managing director Justin Sargent said: “This latest poll shows that the confidence of the nation continues to improve, though consumers remain very guarded and we are still a long way from the confidence levels we saw prior to the economic meltdown.”