National Consumer Sentiment Flat; New York Dips; Sits at Breakeven Point

Grocery aisle

Long Hard Winter Takes Toll; Sentiment Down for 2nd Month in a Row
Willingness to Spend Off Sharply Among Women, Younger NY’ers, Upstaters & Dem’s
Gas & Food Worries Way Up; Plans to Buy Cars Fall while Home Improvements, Furniture & Electronics on the Rise

Loudonville, NY – The New York State Index of Consumer Sentiment decreased 2.4 points in March, while the nation’s Index decreased 1.6 points, according to the latest poll by the Siena (College) Research Institute (SRI). At 73.9, New York’s overall Index of Consumer Sentiment is 6.1 points below the nation’s* Index of 80.0.

In March, buying plans were up for consumer electronics, 4.5 points to 33.1%, furniture, 3.6 points to 21.9% and major home improvements, 4.5 points to 18.0%. Buying plans were down for cars/trucks, 2.4 points to 11.7% and homes, 0.1 points to 3.8%.
“What a winter! Consumer sentiment fell for the second consecutive month in New York as residents endured storms, cold temperatures and those heating bills,” according to Dr. Doug Lonnstrom, professor of statistics and finance at Siena College and SRI Founding Director. “Currently the willingness to spend sits at a point below breakeven, and not only the statewide number, but also the index for every demographic group, is lower today than at this point a year ago. Biggest drops this month were among women, New Yorkers under fifty-five, Upstate residents and Democrats.

“Nationally, consumers took a step back this month as well. While the overall and current indices are higher nationally than in New York, here at home, we continue to be more optimistic about the future than is the nationwide sample.”

Each month since January 1999, the SRI survey establishes an Index for Consumer Sentiment for New York State consumers. This index allows a direct comparison of New Yorkers to all Americans (“the nation”) as surveyed by the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment. The SRI survey measures current and future consumer sentiment, which combined provides the overall consumer sentiment. SRI also looks at confidence in New York State by region (metro New York City and Upstate), age, income, gender and party.

“Concern over gas prices shot up six percentage points in March to fifty-seven percent while worries over the cost of groceries jumped five points and reached sixty-eight percent. Gas worries are the greatest we’ve seen since September while food worries haven’t been this high since last May.

“Those concerns appear to have taken the wind out of plans to purchase cars and trucks but did not have the same impact on those long awaited home improvement projects or that trip to the – no interest until whenever – furniture store. In addition to more jobs, and a raise, New Yorkers need some sunshine. Perhaps we’ll get one out of three,” Dr. Lonnstrom said.

Gas and Food Price Analysis

Fifty-seven percent of all New Yorkers say that current gasoline prices are having a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their financial condition. Sixty-eight percent of state residents indicate that the amount of money they spend on groceries is having either a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their finances. Forty-nine percent of state residents say that both gasoline and food prices are having either a somewhat or very serious impact on their finances.

The SRI Index of Consumer Sentiment was conducted in March 2014 by random telephone calls to 640 New York State residents over the age of 18. As consumer sentiment is expressed as an index number developed after statistical calculations to a series of questions, “margin of error” does not apply. Buying plans, which are shown as a percentage based on answers to specific questions, do have a margin of error of + 3.9 points. For more information or comments, please call Dr. Doug Lonnstrom, at 518-783-2362. Survey cross-tabulations and buying plans can be found at SRI is an independent, non-partisan research institute. SRI subscribes to the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Code of Professional Ethics and Practices.

Summary Trends

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