SALT LAKE CITY — Utah consumers' economic confidence is at a historic level, a new report shows.
The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index jumped 9.1 points to register at 124.1 in September — the highest level since the index began in 2011. The overall index edged up slightly by 1.9 points year over year.
This month marks the 28th consecutive month the index has exceeded the 110 threshold — the level signaling overall positive consumer attitudes about the economy. Nationally, the Consumer Confidence Index rose 3.7 points to register at 138.4 for the month.
The Utah Present Situation Index — a measure of current economic conditions — jumped 10 points in September to register at 140.3 — the largest month-to-month increase for that index since November 2013 and the highest level ever recorded since Zions Bank began measuring Utahns' attitudes on the economy seven years ago.
The increases in the Present Situation Index were almost entirely driven by strong sentiment about the availability of jobs, with 64 percent of Utahns feeling that jobs are currently plentiful, explained Chad Berbert, principal with Cicero Group.
"One of the trends that is driving increasing overall confidence is the health of the job market, buoyed by the health of the stock market. Since 2011, Utahns have seen substantial growth in their retirement savings and more Utahns are now saying they expect to be able to maintain their current standard of living into retirement," he said. "By a margin of nearly 3 to 1 Utahns believe that investments in their 401(k) retirement accounts will increase in value in the coming year. This number has grown steadily in the past seven years."
With the healthy job market, Utahns are also seeing increased income from their jobs, he noted. Forty percent of Utahns believe their incomes will increase in the next six months, and another 53 percent see them remaining steady, he said.
The survey showed 64 percent of Utahns believe jobs are currently plentiful and a whopping 91 percent believe that there will be either the same number or more jobs available in the next six months, Berbert said. This is significant considering Utah's unemployment rate hovers just above 3 percent, he said.
The Utah Expectations Index — a measure of economic conditions six months from now — also had a notable month-to-month rise of 8.5 points to register at 113.3. Year over year, the Expectations Index has declined 2.9 points, he noted.
Considering the record favorability of Utahns' present outlook, the dip in future expectations indicates that Utahns see things remaining stable, rather than getting significantly better, he added. The survey indicated that even still, those who believe the job market will continue to grow nearly double the number of respondents who believe job availability will shrink.
Utahns' confidence in the economy is driven by three main things, said Randy Shumway, chairman and partner of Cicero Group: their feelings about costs in general, their income and investments.8 comments on this story
"One of the interesting stories is the interplay between Utahns' expectations of their income and of costs in general. Most Utahns believe that prices are going up, with 64 percent feeling that prices for consumer goods will increase in the next 12 months," Shumway said. "But we're also seeing that more and more Utahns are believing that their income will increase by more than the rate of inflation in the next two years. This translates to more positive attitudes about the economy and more consumer spending now and in the future."