Easing gas prices helped boost the mood of consumers in July, though the outlook on jobs remains bleak, the Conference Board reported this week.

The modest gains were driven by improved expectations, with fewer consumers anticipating further declines in business conditions over the next six months, the New York-based private research group said.

At the same time, a growing number said jobs were getting harder find, keeping their appraisal of present-day conditions at record lows.

The results are based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households.

"While consumers remain extremely grim about short-term prospects, the modest improvement in expectations, often a harbinger of economic times to come, bears careful watching over the next few months," Lynn Franco, the group's director of consumer research, said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Discover reported a similar upturn in confidence  among the nation's small businesses.