SALT LAKE CITY — A majority of Utahns — 63 percent — feel jobs are plentiful right now, up 8 points from last January according to a new economic report, yet that optimism is tempered with a slight drop in the state's monthly look at consumer confidence.
The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index lost 1.9 points to register at 113.9 in January. The year-over-year index declined by 4 points. Comparatively, the national Consumer Confidence Index fell by 6.4 points to register at 120.2 this month.
Despite the decreases, both indices registered above 110 — the level indicative of optimal economic optimism.
"There's this sense of feeling good about (one's) personal circumstances, but being a little concerned nationally about where things are going," Chad Berbert, principal with Cicero Group, which conducts the polling, said. The recent government shutdown and political volatility have created some uncertainty among consumers in Utah, but not enough to dampen their view of the state's overall economic strength.
"On the micro (state) level, consumers think things are going to be fine," he said. "Looking at the big macro trends, they're feeling a little unsure about them."
The Utah Present Situation Index, which measures current economic sentiment, slipped 1.1 points to register at 131 from December to January. The same index gained 5.8 points year over year from January 2018 to January 2019 due primarily to a large improvement in Utahns’ perception of the job market, Berbert said.
The Utah Expectations Index — which measures consumer sentiment six months from now — declined 2.5 points from December to January to register at 102.5. The Expectations Index dropped 10.6 points from January of last year. The report noted that while 27 percent of Utahns expect business conditions will get better in the next six months, 12 percent of Utahns feel they will get worse. The number of Utahns with a negative business outlook was up 8 percentage points from last year and at its highest level since December 2013, the report stated.
Much of Utahns’ uncertainty about the future of Utah’s economy could stem from their feelings about national economic prospects, Berbert said. The report showed that 29 percent of Utahns believe it is unlikely that the U.S. economy will improve in the next 12 months, the highest point since November 2016. Similarly, the number of Utahns indicating that the federal government is doing a “poor job” with economic policy increased 12 percentage points since last month, to 34 percent, the highest level since December 2017, he said.
For the second consecutive month, Utahns’ confidence in stock market growth remained at a two-year low, he added.
An important factor regarding Utah consumer spending patterns is how much exposure consumers feel they might have to future conditions, explained Randy Shumway, chairman and partner of Cicero Group.Comment on this story
“Although some Utahns feel that general business conditions will get worse, they also feel that their incomes are stable,” he said. “This indicates that while there is concern about macro policy factors, individual consumers feel secure with regards to their personal economic situation.”
In fact, 95 percent of Utahns believe their income will grow or stay the same over the next six months, he noted.
The overall index is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households surveyed monthly by Cicero Group — with a 95 percent confidence level with a variance of plus or minus 4.38 percent. The results are compared to both Utah data and national data from previous months to identify key statewide consumer sentiment trends.