But in September, the country got some better news on employment. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent in August. It was the first time the rate has been below 8 percent since January 2009.The improvement in the labor market helped lift consumer confidence. The Conference Board reported its confidence index rose last month to the highest reading since February. Consumer confidence has fluctuated sharply this year. It has fallen five times in the past nine months, hitting a low for the year in August.