Confidence in the state and federal economy gave way to a strong holiday shopping season in 2018. Zion’s Bank has released the most recent Utah Consumer Attitude Index, which indicates those surveyed feeling more reserved about the future stability of the federal economy. Financial experts worry this could lead to a slow-down in spending.
“Between the president and Federal Reserve board and what is the right approach to interest rates recently, I think all of those types of things generally lend to feelings of discomfort and concern with regards to what the future might hold,” said Chad Berbert, an economic advisor for the Cicero Group which measures the Utah consumer attitude for Zions Bank..
Although Utahns are pleased with the current situation, the report recorded a full 10 percent drop among those who believe current 401 (k) investments will be worth more a year from now.
"Generally the perceptions have been positive for quite some time, and this is the first we are seeing a significant decrease in future expectations stemming from concerns about the broader stock market", he said.
There is a strong showing of confidence in the Utah economy by the 500 resident surveyed. Most indicate they have less confidence in economic decisions and management by the federal government.
“The stock market is a driver of future expectations in a lot of ways, and the fact that we have had a lot of ups and downs over the past three to four weeks, I think, is contributing to how comfortable and secure Utahan’s are feeling about the overall economic situation,” Berbert said.
The most recent economic attitude survey happened before the partial federal government shut-down in December. Berbert said it will likely be spring before his group can measure the impacts of the furlough on federal workers in Utah. And, he adds, if the furlough continues for more than five weeks there is a risk that key federal workers in the state, like those working for the BLM, Forest Service and IRS, could leave Utah for non-government jobs.
“Often times the best employees will look at a situation like that and they will start to wonder if they need to find other employment elsewhere and then you see a bit of an exodus from government employment which has further long term effects,” Berbert said.
Based on December confidence numbers, 64 percent indicated business conditions are good, the highest level recorded since Zions Bank began tracking Consumer Attitudes in 2011. Sentiment about current job availability is nearly as positive as it has ever been, with 63 percent of residents saying they feel jobs are plentiful.