Utah consumer attitudes decline slightly but still high, report says

Published: Tuesday, May 27 2014 7:17 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, May 27 2014 7:17 p.m. MDT

Shoppers walk through City Creek in Salt Lake City.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News Archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time this year, consumer attitudes across the Beehive State were less optimistic than the previous month.

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index declined 6.6 points to 96.3 from April to May, marking the first decrease in 2014 and the first monthly decline since October 2013. Although the index decreased this month, Utahns still have strong confidence in the state’s economy, as the survey has improved nearly 20 points over the past 12 months, said Aaron Andersen, director at the Cicero Group.

For comparison, this month’s national Consumer Confidence Index rose 1.3 points to 83, he said. The consumer attitude index is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households surveyed monthly by the Cicero Group, at a confidence level of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Speaking at a monthly news conference on Tuesday, Andersen attributed the drop primarily to lower expectations for the trajectory of the local economy. In particular, Utahns’ expectations for both business conditions and household income downgraded slightly from April to May, he said.

“The percentage of Utahns who think business conditions will be better six months from now declined from 31 percent to 29 percent, while the percentage of Utahns who think business conditions will be worse six months from now increased from 6 percent to 10 percent,” Andersen said. “(Also), the percentage of Utahns who expect their household income to be lower six months from now increased to 8 percent from 4 percent.”

He also noted that the percentage of Utahns who expect their household income to be higher six months from now held steady at 30 percent.

On the labor front, consumer attitudes were mixed with regard to the jobs market, with those expecting more jobs in the next six months falling slightly from 30 percent to 28 percent.

Utah’s economy remains strong as the state unemployment rate decreased to 3.8 percent, down from 4.1 percent in March, he said. The state has added 36,800 jobs year over year, up nearly 3 percent compared to the same time last year, he added.

“All 10 of Utah’s private sector industry groups posted net job increases in April as compared to last year,” Andersen said. “The fastest employment growth occurred in construction at 7.7 percent, information at 5.9 percent, along with leisure and hospitality at 5.5 percent.”

For perspective, nationally the jobless rate in March was 6.3 percent, down from 6.7 percent in March, he noted. The state's overall economy has been buoyed by improving residential real estate prices, he said.

“Within the state, housing prices are up 9.2 percent year over year,” Andersen said. “And Utah remains viewed very favorably as one of the top places to live in the United States.”

Across the board, while most local indicators experienced a dip in May, the Utah economy remained strong compared to the national economic outlook, he said.

The Zions Bank Present Situation Index — an assessment of confidence in current business and employment conditions in Utah — fell 2.1 points to 96.2, the report states. In comparison, the national Present Situation Index moved up 1.9 points to 80.4.

Also, the Zions Bank Expectations Index — an estimate of consumer confidence in the Utah economy six months from now — dropped 9.6 points to 96.3, while the national Expectations Index ticked up slightly 0.9 points to 84.8.

Email: jlee@deseretnews.com, Twitter: JasenLee1

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