U.S. consumer confidence improved more than expected in December, hitting a three-month high as job market pessimism eased and consumers' expectations reached a two-year high, according to a private report released on Tuesday.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes rose to 52.9 in December from a revised 50.6 in November.

That beat analysts' forecast of 52.5, which was based on a Reuters poll that ranged from 46.0 to 57.0. Meanwhile, last month's revised reading was also higher than the originally reported 49.5.

The expectations index rose to 75.6 -- the highest since December 2007 -- from November's 70.3.

Consumers' labor market assessment also showed some signs of improvement, with the jobs hard to get index decreasing to 48.6 from 49.2.

Despite the progress, however, the report reflected an economy that remained sluggish as it struggles to recover from the worst recession in decades.

Consumers rated their present situation the worst since February 1983, with that index falling to 18.8 from 21.2.

The jobs plentiful index also fell, dropping to 2.9 -- also its lowest since February 1983 -- from 3.1.

(Reporting by Burton Frierson, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)