Utah consumers are very optimistic about their current economic prospects, according to a new survey.
The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index jumped 5.1 points to register at 119.8 in the month of December. An overall local index of 110 or greater connotes the economy is operating at peak levels.
The increase was the result of a very positive outlook on the economy over the next six months, explained Chad Berbert, principal with the Cicero Group, which conducted the survey.
“Unemployment is quite low, gas prices are fairly low currently, and people are looking (positively) at their wages,” he said. “People are looking at their jobs and feeling good, feeling that wages are going to go up over the next six months, (and since) unemployment is low, there are other opportunities out there.”
Speaking at a monthly news conference on Tuesday, Berbert said the overall index is nearly 11 points higher than its level one year ago. In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index rose 4.3 points from November to December to register at 113.7. The increase in national consumer confidence comes as the national expectations index — which gauges consumer sentiment for the next six months — reached a 13-year high of 105.5, he added.
Berbert said expectations for the coming year are positive, with the economy continuing its current upward trend.
“People feel like the economy is going to be strong over the (next six-month) period,” he said. “Even some of the initial jitters people had (coming out of the presidential election) have calmed. People are looking at broader economic conditions and feeling a greater sense of confidence that the economy will remain stable.”
He acknowledged that some uncertainty still exists to a lesser degree, but for the most part, people are upbeat about the current state and national economies.
The Utah Consumer Attitude Index is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households. The monthly survey is conducted by the Cicero Group and has a confidence interval of plus or minus 4.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The data collected are compared with both local and U.S. data from previous months to identify key consumer sentiment trends in the state.
The optimistic consumer outlook bodes well for the local economy’s near term future, explained Zions Bank economic adviser Randy Shumway.
“In spite of a rocky, divisive year of elections, Utahns’ confidence in the economy closed 2016 at its highest level since before the recession,” he said. “This optimism sets a favorable tone for businesses and consumers as we look ahead to the new year.”