Despite Decline in Consumer Attitude Index, Utahns Still Positive About Current Economic Conditions
Increasing prices for gas and housing temper future expectations
The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index (CAI) decreased 3.4 points to 110.7 in May, the lowest level since July 2016. Year-over-year the CAI has ticked down slightly, by 1.1 points, since May of 2017.
In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index® increased 2.4 points to 128.0 this month and is 10.1 points higher than it was at this same time last year.
The decrease in the overall CAI is largely due to dips in Utahns’ confidence about the future of the state economy. Month-to-month, the Utah Future Expectations index decreased 4.6 points to 103.4, representing a year-over-year decrease of 2.9 points. Compared to three months ago, fewer Utahns feel that the job market and household incomes will continue to grow over the next six to 12 months.
While Utahns are feeling less confidence about the future economy, most feel that current conditions remain highly positive and that jobs in the state continue to be plentiful. The positive sentiment is consistent with Utah’s unemployment rate of 3.1, which is at a 10-year low and is at or below what economists believe is typical “full employment” level.
Two factors impacting Utahns’ perception of the future are increasing prices of gasoline and rising home prices. Even after record increases in the price of gasoline, 69 percent of Utahns still believe gas prices will increase in the next 12 months.
Similarly, 80 percent of Utahns believe the prices of homes will increase in the next 12 months. That is the highest percentage of Utahns expecting an increase in the price of homes since Zions Bank and Cicero Group began tracking consumer attitudes in Utah in 2011.
“As Utah continues to foster a robust job market that both keeps people here and attracts others to Utah, consumers will continue to see strong wage and housing price growth,” said Scott Andersen, president and CEO of Zions Bank. “Job availability and the price and availability of housing are two of the largest factors that influence people’s perception of the state of the economy.”
“Increasing prices for gas and housing impact Utahns’ expectations,” said Randy Shumway, chairman and partner at Cicero Group. “The key factor that tends to counter these perceptions is wage growth. If Utahns see their wages increasing above inflation, then their perceptions will improve. Over the past year we have seen strong job and wage growth and this was more apparent than price increases. Now things have reversed. Housing and gas price increases are front page news and are hitting Utahns’ pocketbooks in real ways. This is starting to affect how Utahns see the overall economy.”
Zions Bank provides the CAI as a free resource to the communities of Utah. The monthly CAI summary reports are released at a monthly press conference, coinciding with The Conference Board’s national CCI release date. Analysis and data collection for the CAI are done by Cicero Group, a premier data-driven strategy and research firm based in Salt Lake City. The June CAI will be released during a press conference at a local business at 10:30 a.m. on June 26, 2018.
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