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Utah consumers bullish on local economy, survey says

The Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation has approved $435,000 in grant funding for 14 outdoor recreation projects statewide with an estimated impact of more than $2.8 million — including grant funds, matching funds and private investment.
Utah consumers remain high on the state's economy and its future prospects.
Carlos Voss, Fotolia

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah consumers remain high on the state's economy and its future prospects.

The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index rose 1.4 points to register at 114.9 for the month of August — down slightly year-over-year from the level of 115.0 measured during the same period last year. Comparatively, the national Consumer Confidence Index climbed 5.5 points to register at 133.4 in August — 10.5 points higher than in August 2017.

The Utah Present Situation Index — a measure of current economic conditions — jumped 6.3 points to register at 130.3, representing the fourth time that the sub-index has climbed above the 130 mark since Zions Bank began tracking consumer attitudes in 2011, said Chad Berbert, principal with Cicero Group. Utahns are most confident about the employment outlook, with a record low 8.5 percent of Utahns indicating jobs are hard to get, he said.

"Utahns continue to remain optimistic about the current state of the economy," he said. "Perception among Utahns regarding job availability remains positive and actual unemployment is still quite low at 3.1 percent, well below the 4.5 percent that many economists believe is the 'natural rate' of unemployment."

Additionally, Utahns’ assessment of general business conditions has held steady for the last 12 months, he added.

The Utah Expectations Index — a measure of economic conditions six months from now — slipped 1.9 points to register at 104.7 — down 1.7 points year-over-year, the survey showed. Utahns’ expectations for future income and future business conditions have tempered relative to current conditions as 32 percent of Utahns believe their household income will increase, down 8 points from 40 percent in August 2017, Berbert said.

The transportation sector in Utah has also seen strong growth, with 4.6 percent job growth, above the state average of 3.5 percent for all industries, he noted.

"This growth is expected to continue into the future with the building of the new Salt Lake City International Airport and the development of Salt Lake’s inland port," Berbert said. "Overall Utah added 51,100 total jobs in the last 12 months."

One of the goals of economic policy is to keep wage growth and prices commensurate, explained Randy Shumway, chairman and partner of Cicero Group.

"We’re seeing continued growth in the job market and some competition for employees, he said. "When we look at what jobs we are creating and attracting to the state, the data is actually pretty good. Wage growth is helping to mitigate the effects of price increases.”

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.