U.S. consumer sentiment improved in early December on signs of stabilization in the labor market and widespread discounts to entice holiday shoppers, a survey released on Friday showed.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary index of sentiment for December rose to 73.4, just a touch below the year's high set in September.

The latest figure was higher than the 67.4 for November. It was also higher than economists' median expectation of a reading of 68.5 according to a Reuters poll.

The survey's gauge of current economic conditions jumped to 79.1 in early December from 68.8 in November. This was the highest since March 2008 when it was 84.2.

The barometer on consumer expectations rose to 69.7 from 66.5 in November.

Confidence improved in early December mainly due to widespread price discounting by merchants attempting to spark holiday sales as well as somewhat more positive expectations for economic growth and employment, Richard Curtin, director of the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Richard Leong, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)