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Report shows consumer attitudes at record level in Utah

Shoppers walk through City Creek in Salt Lake City  Wednesday, March 20, 2013.
Shoppers walk through City Creek in Salt Lake City Wednesday, March 20, 2013.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Consumer attitudes in Utah remain strong, reaching record levels.

The Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index held steady in June following a significant increase in May. After rising 10.4 points last month, the index increased by 0.9 points to 87.9 in June and now sits at its highest level since its inception in January 2011.

The index is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households. The monthly survey is conducted by The Cicero Group/Dan Jones & Associates, with a confidence level of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

The monthly national Consumer Confidence Index climbed 7.1 points to 81.4. Overall, continued momentum in the housing market and optimism about the long-term labor market buoyed consumer confidence, but near-term concerns about ongoing unemployment and worries that interest rates may spike kept confidence from moving any higher, said Zions Bank economic advisor Randy Shumway.

“The economy is on the mend,” he said. “The fundamentals are in place that suggest that the economy is truly rebounding from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.”

Speaking at news conference in Salt Lake City, Shumway said that despite Utah’s unemployment rate falling for the fourth month in a row to 4.6 percent, well below the national average of 7.6 percent, Utahns’ attitudes toward the job market were mixed this month.

The percentage of Utahns who saw jobs as plentiful fell in June to 15 percent, down from 21 percent in May, he said. Additionally, 6 percent of Utahns think they are very likely to lose a job they wanted to keep over the next two years, a figure up from just about 2 percent in the month prior, Shumway said.

However, the percentage of Utahns who think there will be more jobs six months from now increased to 31 percent in June from 28 percent in May, he said.

“Mirroring attitudes about the labor market, Utahns continue to believe the economy in the coming months will be significantly better than it is now,” Shumway said.

The Zions Bank Expectations Index, an estimate of consumer confidence in the economy six months from now, rose 4.7 points in June to 94.8. Conversely, the Zions Bank Present Situation Index, an assessment of confidence in current business and employment conditions, was down 4.7 points to 77.4 in June.

Utahns continue to have more confidence in the economy than their national counterparts due to the state’s lower unemployment rate, faster-growing and more diversified economy, and stronger, more stable housing market, Shumway said.

While consumers expect interest rates to increase, they still see strong momentum in the housing market, with 90 percent of Utahns expecting home prices to increase or, at a minimum, stay the same over the next 12 months, he said.

“The housing market was the impetus for the recession. Now, it is required in order for a full rebound to occur,” Shumway said. “We’re going to see slow, steady, consistent (economic) improvement in the coming months.”

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