Utahns less confident about where the economy is headed, a report says

In a consumer sentiment survey, Utah residents generally indicated they’re better off than a year ago, but aren’t so sure about the country’s economic future.

(Illustration by Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

For the first time in four years, Utahns have indicated they’re less confident in the economy than most Americans.

Consumer sentiment — which measures attitudes, feelings, values, motivations and behaviors of people within a particular market — fell in Utah by about two points between February and March, but rose nationally during that same time, according to a new report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

Beehive State residents generally indicated they’re better off than a year ago, but don’t feel confident about the country’s economic future.

Utah’s consumer sentiment decreased by 2.9% — from an index score of 80.3 in February to 78 in March, according to a survey Gardner conducts monthly.

The index score is calculated as the difference in the percentage of respondents who give a “favorable” reply and the percentage of respondents who give an “unfavorable” reply, plus 100. For example, Utah’s score for the question about whether they feel better off financially than a year ago is 93. This means the “unfavorable” replies outnumber the “favorable” replies by 7 percentage points.

A similar survey by the University of Michigan found national consumer sentiment increased by 3.1% in that same time.

National consumer sentiment was at a 79.4 index score in March, marking the first time Utahns’ consumer sentiment has been worse than that of Americans overall since Gardner started the state-specific survey in 2020.

Natalie Gochnour, the institute’s director, said the data is concerning, with a caveat.

“It’s only one month of data,” Gochnour said. “The prudent course is to keep a steady eye on consumer behavior and see if a trend develops.”

The majority of Utahns who responded to a consumer sentiment survey said they:

  • Are worse off financially than a year ago.

  • Will be better off financially in a year.

  • Expect bad times financially in the next year, both in Utah and the United States as a whole.

  • Expect continuous bad times in America, but good times in Utah in the next five years.

  • Think it’s a bad time for people to buy major household items.

There was a slight uptick in people saying they’re better off financially than a year ago, but Utahns expressed more worry in March about the country’s economic future and the state’s economy after the next year.

The report did not include a detailed breakdown of answers to questions at the national level.

U.S. World News and Report gives Utah the top spot in its “Best States” rankings, citing the state’s economic strength and educational offerings.

Utah also has been ranked as the top state for economic outlook for more than a decade in an index from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC describes itself as a nonpartisan organization, but most of its members are Republican.

Megan Banta is The Salt Lake Tribune’s data enterprise reporter, a philanthropically supported position. The Tribune retains control over all editorial decisions.