U.S. consumer confidence (search) improved robustly in August as Americans pinned their hopes on brighter economic times ahead, a survey published Tuesday showed.

The Conference Board (search) said its monthly gauge of consumer sentiment grew to 81.3 in August from a revised 77.0 in July, beating economists' forecasts for a rise to 80.0.

"The welcome bounce in confidence this month was entirely due to consumers' increasing optimism about the future," said Lynn Franco, director of the privately-funded research firm's Consumer Research Center.

The index's expectations component jumped to 94.4 from 86.3 over the last month, while consumers' assessment of current conditions worsened slightly, dipping to 61.6 from 63.0.

Painting a still-bleak employment picture, the survey suggested Americans were having a tough time looking for work. But respondents also felt slightly better about the outlook for jobs in the near-term.