A number of other indicators also suggest that the consumer recession is drawing to an end.
Household spending has since shown modest growth this year after falling sharply at the tail end of last year. New car sales have picked up in recent months. And consumer confidence hit a 15-month high in September.
Two factors have come to the rescue of a battered consumer sector.
First, lower inflation has reduced the squeeze on real incomes. Last month CPI inflation fell to its lowest level in almost three years and less than a half the rate of a year ago. Lower inflation has boosted consumer spending power.
Second, an unexpectedly resilient labour market has kept unemployment below the peaks seen in the much milder recessions of the early '80s and early '90s. Latest figures show a surprise fall in the unemployment rate with the number of people in employment rising to a record high.
One yardstick for gauging consumer conditions is the so-called misery index calculated by summing a country's inflation and unemployment rates. The UK misery index is now at its lowest level since 2009.
The changing mood is reflected in the findings of the latest Deloitte Consumer Tracker, a quarterly survey of 3,000 consumers conducted by our colleagues in Deloitte's Consumer Business team.
The Tracker shows that UK consumers have become more positive about the outlook for jobs and spending power. Stress in the consumer sector has eased, with fewer shoppers trading down to cheaper brands, bargain hunting or cutting spending.
Yet risks lie ahead. Utility and food bills are on the rise again and, while the labour market has held up well, many of the new jobs being created are temporary of part time. The Consumer Tracker shows that consumers remain cautious, worried about rising prices and focussed on paying down debts and build up their savings.
Much depends on inflation. Our hunch is that high inflation, rather than a weak jobs market or cuts in public spending, has been the single biggest problem for UK consumers. If UK inflation is, finally, heading down, better times should lie ahead for consumers. For now the UK consumer looks on course for a weak recovery in 2013.