(Bloomberg) -- South African consumer confidence recovered to its strongest level in two years in the fourth quarter as households anticipated better employment prospects and an improvement in their finances. 

A quarterly index measuring sentiment rose to -8 from -20 in the previous three-month period, FirstRand Ltd.’s First National Bank said in an emailed statement Thursday. That’s the strongest level since the final quarter of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic struck. 

The index has been negative for 14 straight quarters, the longest stretch since the series began in 1982, signaling depressed consumer sentiment. 

The scope of the rebound relative to the third quarter is a surprise given sustained high inflation, rapidly rising interest rates, frequent power cuts and the generally bleak outlook for global economic growth, FNB Chief Economist Mamello Matikinca-Ngwenya said. The rebound points to a level of resilience among South African consumers, she said.

The household financial outlook sub-index was the main driver of the improvement, jumping 15 index points to reach 13 during the fourth quarter — a similar reading to the 2021 festive season.

“Young people, aged between 16 and 34 years, have turned much more optimistic about their financial prospects compared to the older generation,” FNB said, pointing to increased job creation among that age bracket.

The official jobless rate decreased to 32.9% in the three months through September from 33.9% in the previous quarter, while the youth unemployment rate fell to 44% from 46% in the same period in 2021. South Africa has also introduced various public work programs for youth. 

“An uptick in employment growth, particularly in the now fast-recovering services sector, and substantially lower petrol prices since the third quarter no doubt bolstered consumer sentiment in the run-up to the festive season,” Matikinca-Ngwenya said. 

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