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In April, the Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index (CAI) rose to its highest point ever recorded this month as Utahns’ attitudes continue to improve, increasing 5.4 points to 85.3. The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) remained virtually unchanged, dropping 0.3 points to 69.2.
Over the last six months, consumer confidence in every category measured by the Zions Bank CAI has improved — price expectations, government appraisal, personal finance, business conditions, and employment. Since October 2011, Utahns’ assessment of the present economic situation has increased 39 percent, while optimism toward the future has risen 20 percent. Attitudes in the state are trending upward as confidence and optimism strengthens on all economic fronts.
Over the last six months, favorable developments have been taking place in the state and nation, helping propel consumer confidence. Recent economic reports show average hourly earnings on the rise and state bankruptcy rates on the decline. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has jumped 25 percent and retail sales have climbed 3.1 percent since October 2011. From September 2011 to March 2012, Utah’s unemployment rate has fallen 1.6 percentage points (or 22 percent). In the past six months, Utahns’ confidence has followed the positive economic reports, which has led to a 25 percent increase in overall consumer attitudes in the state.
In April, the Zions Bank Present Situation Index, which is a snapshot of current business conditions and employment, increased 10.9 points to 65.8. Nationally, the CCI Present Situation Index increased 1.5 points to 51.4. The Zions Bank Expectations Index for six months from now — which is the best predictor of the direction of consumer spending — increased 1.8 points to 98.4, while the CCI Expectations Index decreased 1.4 points to 81.1.
Economists believe improvements in the housing market will ultimately depend on consumers’ willingness to purchase, which largely rests on perceived outlook and confidence toward the housing market. This month, 43 percent of Utahns believe the housing market will improve over the next 12 months, compared to 26 percent six months ago.
April’s Zions Bank CAI reveals that a growing number of Utahns believe the labor market will continue to improve over the next six months. Since October, the number of residents describing current job opportunities as “plentiful” has doubled (12 percent in April). Optimism toward the next six months has jumped 65 percent since last October. Today, 7 out of every 10 Utahns feel confident in their job security, which is an 11 percent increase from six months ago.
“The Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index continues to reflect the improved confidence Utahn’s feel toward the economy,” said Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson. “Utah has one of the fastest growing economies, our unemployment rate is considerably lower than the national average, and gasoline prices appear to be declining. With the culmination of the state’s strong economic fundamentals and rising consumer confidence, Utah’s economy sits in a prime position for growth.”