Utahns expect higher incomes, more jobs and have never been more optimistic about the state’s economy, latest index shows

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo ) Downtown Salt Lake City seen from the top of the Walker Center. Utahns are more optimistic than ever about the state's economy, with the Consumer Attitude Index rising 8.9 points from September to October, Zions Bank announced Tuesday.

Consumer attitudes have never been higher in Utah — as residents expect to make more money next spring and find more jobs available.

The Utah Consumer Attitude Index rose 8.9 points from September to October, Zions Bank said Tuesday, and that pushed the index to its highest level ever — 125.4 points. That’s 13.4 points above the reading a year earlier, and just a tad below the national Consumer Confidence Index, now at 125.9.

“Fears of what’s around the corner are dissipating,” said Aaron Andersen of Cicero Group, the Salt Lake City firm that does market research for Zions Bank.

The availability of desirable jobs, optimism about business conditions overall and increases in disposable household income are the driving forces behind Utahns’ optimistic outlook, he said.

Zions Bank announced its monthly index at Epic Brewing, highlighting the state’s craft beer industry. The state also has hit a peak in the number of craft breweries,with their numbers up 80 percent since 2011, Andersen said.

And with more money in their pockets, breweries are one place many Utahns apparently are celebrating.

The bank’s survey showed that Utahns spent about 7.5 percent of their household income on alcoholic beverages and food consumed away from home. The monthly tab for alcoholic beverages alone is $60, Andersen said, with 10 percent of the Utahns surveyed saying they intend to spend more on booze next year than they did last year.

Their total spending amounted to $415 million statewide in 2016, he added. And even though Utah has a reputation as a teetotaling state, that dollar value means there are 14 states with lower alcohol sales.

Epic Brewing opened in 2011 and since then, it has filled every ounce of available space at its location at 825 S. State in Salt Lake City. It also has opened a second brewery in Colorado.

“This is an excellent time to be drinking beer,” said Epic Brewing spokesman Matthew Allred. “The audience in Utah is still very thirsty.”

Three economic figures in Tuesday’s report were worth toasting:

  • 30 percent of Utahns expect business conditions to be even better in six months than they are now, up from 26 percent in October of 2016;

  • 29 percent anticipate there will be more jobs to choose from next spring, up from 24 percent a year ago; and

  • 37 percent are optimistic their household incomes will go up, as opposed to 32 percent having that positive outlook last October.

“Growth within Utah’s labor market is benefiting thousands of individuals, especially those in the construction sector,” said Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson. “The growth we’re witnessing in this sector is a good indicator Utah has fully recovered from the [recession].”

“Utah’s robust job market has cushioned much of the negative impact that price increases can have on households and individuals,” added Cicero Group Chairman Randy Shumway.

He cited an earlier report showing that Wasatch Front prices rose 3.5 percent over the past year, led primarily by the cost of renting an apartment and higher transportation expenses.