SALT LAKE CITY — Noting that various market factors indicate Utah's economy is strong and “fit” as 2018 gets underway, economic leaders took their monthly consumer confidence message to a fitness center Tuesday.
"We live in one of the healthiest states, both physically and economically," said Chad Berbert, principal with Cicero Group, which tracks the Utah Consumer Attitude Index. He noted that a survey shows 74 percent of Utahns work out at least once every week.
"We're witnessing a sustained period of growth where jobs are plentiful and wealth is increasing," Berbert said. "This has created economic optimism, which has boosted consumption and investment."
He added that more than one-quarter of people surveyed said they would spend more on personal fitness this year than last year, which bodes well for one local business.
Carrie Goodwin, owner of The Bar Method exercise studio in Sugar House, where Tuesday's news conference was held, said people are "getting smarter" about connecting their physical fitness to their economic health.
"People are recognizing that (staying fit) is going to extend their lives and create youthfulness and happiness," she said.
Consumers seem to still be happy with the way Utah's economy is faring, according to the Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index that registered at 117.9 this month, a slight decline from 118.7 in December. Nationally, the Consumer Confidence Index was even higher, registering at 125.4 for January, up 2.4 points from last month and nearly 14 points higher than the same time last year, the report stated.
January marked the 20th consecutive month the index has surpassed the 110 level, indicating optimal economic conditions, Berbert said. He noted that Utah has continued to grow its economy, prompting confidence from local consumers.
Following a record-setting period in December, the Utah Present Situation Index — which measures confidence in current statewide economic conditions — dropped almost 7 points from 132.1 to register at 125.2 points in January.
Despite full employment, Berbert attributed the reduced optimism to current perceptions regarding the local labor market. He said a segment of Utahns believe the number of available jobs in the state is declining.
"Even though the index is at a point that is slightly below what it was last month, we're still at a very high index," he said. According to survey data, 55 percent of Utahns feel job availability is “plentiful” within their area, down from 61 percent in December
However, he said Utahns are increasingly optimistic about the future trajectory of the labor market, with 91 percent of those surveyed feeling that job availability will be equal to or greater than the current situation six months from now.
Berbert said another area that created positive consumer attitudes is the rise in home values. According to CoreLogic's housing price index, single-family housing prices climbed 10.5 percent year-over-year in the Beehive State, which bolstered optimism toward the housing market, he said.Comment on this story
The report showed that 74 percent of Utahns believe housing prices would probably rise over the next 12 months, a trend that serves to strengthen the economic condition of homeowners as their real estate investment appreciates over time, he said.
“Increased optimism regarding the current and future trajectory of the Utah economy has boosted consumption as well as investments in housing and other goods statewide,” said Randy Shumway, chairman and partner of Cicero Group. “With high rates of consumption and investment and a healthy labor market, Utah is poised to continue its strong rate of growth this upcoming year.”