SALT LAKE CITY — Utah consumers continue to be bullish about the state's economic conditions following another month of perceived prosperity, a new survey shows.
The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index held steady, registering at 117.9 in February — the same level as last month. An index over 110 is an indicator of optimal economic confidence, explained Chad Berbert, principal with the Cicero Group who conducted the monthly survey.
In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index rose 6.5 points to register at 130.8 for the month — nearly 15 points higher than this same time last year. While the national index is outpacing local attitudes, Berbert said Utahns are still very satisfied with how the state's economy has been holding up.
"Attitudes have been so high, they've leveled off," he said. "They are still at a very high level (and) people still have very positive perceptions about what's happening currently as well as what is happening in the future."
He noted that some consumers may be concerned about the potential for rising interest rates in the coming months, as well as the recent volatility in the stock market.
"(They are wondering), 'How will that affect me?'" Berbert said. "But generally speaking, we're still at a level ... above 110, indicating a sense of economic prosperity."
He noted that the gap between the national index and the Utah index has been widening in recent months, which may suggest even more optimism on the nationwide level among consumers.
"We're seeing more positivity around what's happening with personal income," he said. Additionally, consumers are upbeat about the current employment situation in Utah and across the U.S., he said.
"What's happening is things have remained good nationally for a long enough time that people are feeling like things are really good and they're going to remain good," Berbert explained. "Utahns were at that level (for a long time) and now they've settled down (into a stable pattern)."
Although consumer sentiment remains highly positive across the state, the Zions Bank Present Situation Index, which measures current consumer sentiment, decreased slightly from 125.2 in January to 124.8 in February. The slight decline was offset by minor increases in the Zions Bank Expectations Index, a measure of consumer sentiment six months into the future, that rose 0.2 points from 113.1 last month to 113.3 this month.
While Utah has been economically strong for years, the rest of the nation has gained momentum in the wake of the presidential election in 2016. The overall U.S. index has surpassed the Utah index for the past 12 months, he said, which bodes well for the country as a whole.
"Utahns are used to having a good government and feel like generally the state is doing very well economically, but nationally that election made a significant difference over the last year," he said. "What we're seeing is people saying that we have a president that has been in office for a year, (and) the economy is going strong and we have confidence that this will keep going for at least six to 12 months."
As for the Beehive State, Utah's robust economy currently employs 65,000 people in the technology sector, which includes software development and the gaming industry.
Salt Lake City-based WildWorks is a local company that makes the video game "Animal Jam," played by 90 million children worldwide in six languages. The firm's top executive lauds Utah's enhanced work-life balance as the major reason the tech industry is growing so impressively.
“The quality of life here on the Wasatch Front is what draws people here,” said Wildworks co-founder and CEO Clark Stacey. “I think it can draw a lot more of the talent that is currently in Silicon Valley to grow the tech sector here."
He also noted that the University of Utah has one of the best game development graduate programs in the country, and BYU has one of the best illustration and animation programs in the nation.1 comment on this story
Consistent, prolonged economic growth has helped residents maintain a positive attitude for the past several years, and indications are that optimism will continue into the foreseeable future, said Randy Shumway, chairman and partner of Cicero Group.
“With the business-friendly economic policies that our local government has instituted statewide, it’s no wonder why consumer attitudes remain high,” he said. “As the government continues to facilitate business expansion and job growth, I expect consumer attitudes to move in tandem with the state’s economic growth.”