Utah consumer confidence might not be soaring, but it is showing slow, steady improvement as it continues to hit record levels.
At least that is what the most recent Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index revealed.
The bank has been providing the survey as a free resource since 2011. Data collection is done by The Cicero Group, a Salt Lake City-based research firm.
The index increased .6 points to 96.8 from January to February. Though the monthly increases have been modest, this is the fourth-straight month it has increased. Each increase marks the highest level the survey has ever reached.
Things aren’t going as well nationally. This months national Consumer Confidence Index decreased 1.3 points to 78.1.
"It is encouraging that consumers continue to have confidence in the state’s economy," said Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank. "The housing and labor markets should continue to propel our economy in 2014, just as they did in 2013, and as more jobs and a stronger housing market help spur spending, we can expect continued economic growth."
One of the big drivers in Utah has been the state’s improving employment rate, which has declined for three straight months and now sits at 4.1 percent, well below the national average at 6.6 percent. Only North and South Dakota and Nebraska have lower unemployment rates than Utah.
That said, consumer attitudes regarding labor were mixed in February. Twenty-six percent of Utahns surveyed believe available jobs in the area are plentiful, up 4 percent from the prior month. On the other hand, 21 percent consider jobs in their area hard to get, down 3 percent. The survey also showed that consumers became less optimistic about the labor market’s future six months from now. Analysts said that likely indicates that more Utahns believe the labor market is currently nearing a peak if it hasn’t already reached one.
Home values are another bright spot. In 2013, home values increased about 15 percent year-over-year, and sales were the strongest they have been since 2007.
Ninety percent of Utahns think home values in their community will at least stay the same or go up over the next 12 months, while only 9 percent think home values will decrease during the next 12 months.
The Utah Association of Realtors are predicting a lower increase in home values in the next 12 months, largely due to higher interest rates and an increasing inventory of homes for sale.
The survey said Utahns became more optimistic about their earning potential this month and are more likely to increase their spending.
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