The Last Word

Make Goals and Plans for the Coming Year

A. Scott Anderson Jan 9, 2019

The beginning of each year is a great time to take stock of our lives, including our personal and business financial status. It’s also a time to make goals and plans for the coming year.

It’s important to understand the current financial environment in order to make good decisions and plan effectively. Zions Bank recently commissioned professional survey research to measure the opinions and attitudes of consumers. The results help our customers in Utah, Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming, better understand economic conditions as the new year begins.

The data shows ample reasons to feel optimistic about the coming year, while still being aware that the strong economy will certainly slow at some point.

In general, people in the Mountain West are feeling good about their state and local governments, job opportunities, and economic prospects. The states of the Mountain West are leading the nation in many economic measures. Government leaders tend to be quite pragmatic. They balance budgets, solve problems, plan for the future, and encourage business expansion by keeping taxes low and regulations minimal.

scott anderson of zions bank
A. Scott Anderson, Zions Bank President and CEO

Consumers Confident About Present Conditions

The survey research shows consumers are quite confident about their present economic prospects, but their long-term expectations are a little less positive.

Utah and Idaho are among the national leaders in job growth. This has driven unemployment down and consumer attitudes up. Job growth is up 3.5 percent in Utah in the past 12 months, and 3.1 percent in Idaho, compared to only 1.6 percent nationally.

Jobs are plentiful, with unemployment at only 2.9 percent in Idaho and 3.1 percent in Utah. The excellent job outlook underpins economic strength and consumer confidence, and these healthy economies are forecasted to continue in 2019.

Household income in Utah and Idaho has grown faster than the national average for the last four years. Utah’s average annual household income increase is 2.9 percent, compared to the national average of 2.0 percent.

Positive About Short-term Future

Attitudes about the short-term future are positive:

  • 64 percent of Utahns and 51 percent of Idahoans say jobs are plentiful.
  • 86 percent in Utah and 84 percent in Idaho expect a similar job outlook six months from now. 
  • 56 percent in Utah and 52 percent in Idaho say they like their future economic prospects for employment.
  • High percentages in both Utah and Idaho feel they have the resources, education, training and opportunity to be successful in their careers. 
  • Utah and Idaho are both top 10 states for real Gross Domestic Product growth, although they don’t fare as well in real GDP growth per capita because of large family sizes and because populations are growing faster than productive efficiency. 

Less Confident About Long-term Future

While 58 percent of both Utahns and Idahoans feel confident about their own economic futures, they are significantly less confident about the future of the next generation. Only 26 percent in Utah and 20 percent in Idaho feel confident about the next generation’s economic future.

Consumers should watch for threats ahead when making business and personal finance decisions and plans for the coming year. Among possible economic threats are higher interest rates, inflationary growth in consumer prices, rising home prices and construction costs, labor shortages, especially skilled labor and high-tech workers, and the impact of trade tariffs, which could increase some prices and make international business costlier.

The year ahead looks positive. But it’s always wise to watch for darker economic clouds on the horizon.

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