The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes rose to 53.5 in August from an upwardly revised 51.0 in July.
The median of forecasts from analysts polled by Reuters was for a reading of 50.5. Forecasts ranged from 47.5 to 55.0.
July's reading was revised up from an original reading of 50.4.
The expectations index rose to 72.5 from 67.5 in July.
The present situation index fell to 24.9, the lowest since February, from 26.4 in July.
Consumers' labor market assessment worsened. The jobs hard to get index rose to 45.7 percent from 45.1 percent in July, while the jobs plentiful index declined to 3.8 percent from 4.4 percent in July.
(Reporting by John Parry and Wanfeng Zhou; Editing by James Dalgleish)