COLONIE — Consumers ended 2019 on an optimistic note, according to the latest poll by the Siena College Research Institute.
The state Index of Consumer Sentiment in the fourth quarter of 2019 stands at 93, up 5.3 points from the third quarter of 2019. The state’s index, though, is 6.3 points lower than the nation’s index of 99.3, as compiled by the University of Michigan.
“Consumer sentiment, both nationally and in New York state, are at or within a couple of points of the highest readings we’ve seen in the last 10 years,” said Don Levy, SCRI director. “The decade dawned with consumers pessimistic and reluctant to spend. By the end of 2014, New Yorkers had crossed the breakeven point and displayed growing optimism and now for the last three years, consumers have been strongly optimistic. Today’s index reading is 17 points above the break even point, 9 points above the end of 2014 and over 27 points higher than where the decade began.”
Basically, the Index of Consumer Sentiment as calculated by the University of Michigan subtracts the percentage of unfavorable consumer replies from the favorable ones. Historically, it is based on variations of questions about current and future personal and household finances, the present and future financial condition of the nation as a whole and about plans to buy big ticket items like a home or a car.
In 2009, the year-end overall consumer sentiment in New York state was 65.8 while the current consumer sentiment was 63.7 and the future consumer sentiment was 67.2, according to SCRI. A decade later, the overall consumer sentiment is 93, while the current sentiment is 97.7 and the future sentiment is 90.
While overall consumer sentiment is up, 41 percent of New Yorkers say current gas prices and 58 percent say groceries bills are having a serious or somewhat serious impact on their financial condition. Thirty-three percent of state residents say both gas and food are having either a somewhat or very serious impact on their financial condition, according to the poll.
“Concern over gasoline prices and food costs have varied across the decade with average concern over gas prices affecting 46 percent and food affecting 63 percent,” Levy said. “Today, worries over affording those staples are below the decade average but above the lows of 27 percent for gas and 52 percent for food.”
Republicans are more optimistic than Democrats, 105.9 to 85, and those under 55 years old are more confident than those over 55, 97 to 55. Men are more confident than women, 95.7 to 90.7, and those in New York City are more optimistic than those in upstate, 93.3 to 92.4. Not surprisingly, those making more than $100,000 are more confident than those making less than $50,000, 100.6 to 87.3.
The Siena College poll was conducted Nov. 19 to 22 by random telephone calls to 402 New York adults via a landline and cellphones. The overall poll results carry a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points. Consumer sentiment is expressed as an index number developed after statistical calculations to a series of questions so margin of error does not apply to those indices.