Consumer confidence up in Arkansas, trails rest of the U.S.

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 115 views 

Arkansans were feeling better about the state of the economy heading into the fall, rebounding from negative sentiments earlier this summer when consumers across the state were feeling gloomy about their current economic conditions and long-term prospects, according to the Fall 2014 Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey released Tuesday (Nov. 18).

The current consumer sentiment index for Arkansas is 68.1, up from 67.4 in June’s inaugural survey. The national consumer confidence index as reported by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan was 86.9 for October, up from 82.5 in June.

“Just as national consumers expressed more positive attitudes in October than in June, Arkansans also reported feeling a bit better about current economic conditions and the longer term outlook,” said Kathy Deck, Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, Sam M. Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

“Sentiment is strongest among the young and well-educated, so as the Arkansas workforce shifts in those directions, we expect to see more upbeat numbers,” said Deck, lead economist for the Arvest survey.

Incidentally, the Arkansas and national survey mirror the recent changes in gasoline prices and home values, which are leaving consumers across the state with more discretionary cash and better homeowner equity. The average price of regular gasoline was $2.91 last week, according to the Energy Information Administration, down from $3.64 in late June. In Arkansas, pump prices have dropped even lower to an average of $2.62 per gallon, according to AAA’s daily fuel gauge.

Home sales in Arkansas’ four largest markets rebounded in September, with year-to-date sales up almost 4% and the value of homes sold up almost 2%. September sales in the four markets were up 7.26% and the sales value was up more than 9%.

According to the Arvest survey, the largest gains among Arkansas consumers surveyed in September and October came from three specific areas: 18- to 24-year-olds, respondents with a bachelor’s degree, and Arkansans who are unemployed.

Younger workers entering the job market index jumped from 54.8 in June to 92.4. College graduates also also enjoyed a big jump, from 60.8 to 74.5. On the other end of the scale, optimism among Arkansas’ unemployed workers rose 57.3 to 66.5.
Regionally, Missouri showed the biggest change in the survey’s three-state region, jumping from 68.6 to 77.4. Oklahoma, meanwhile, was the only state to show a decline, from 76.4 to 72.6.

“We’ve been excited to see how consumers’ opinions in Arkansas have changed since our initial survey in August,” said John Womack, chairman and CEO of Arvest Bank of Central Arkansas. “These results seem to show that Arkansas consumers are gaining confidence in the economy and their personal financial situations, too. Viewing that optimism through these results helps us know how to better help meet the financial needs of consumers.”

The Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey is conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. The University of Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Learning Laboratory conducted the 1,200 phone surveys. CBER, Missouri State University and Oklahoma City University provided state data analysis.

The survey is conducted twice a year, with the next survey expected to be completed in May 2015. With each study, the index score will be released first, followed by additional information regarding specifics of consumer outlook for the near future and plans for savings and spending.