Arkansans’ opinion regarding the economy strongly increased in March compared with September, according to the Spring 2016 Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey released Tuesday.
The current consumer sentiment index for Arkansas is 84.9, up from 77.8 in September, 79.1 in March 2015 and significantly higher than the 68.1 in October 2014 and 67.4 in June 2014’s inaugural survey. This is the highest index score for the state since this survey began, and is the first time Arkansas’ index is higher than Oklahoma and Missouri, the other states included in the survey.
In Arkansas, consumer opinion as surveyed in March even ranked higher than the regional reading of 83.4.
“Reflecting an outperforming Arkansas economy, Arkansas consumer sentiment improved from September 2015 to March 2016,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), at the Sam M. Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Deck is the lead economist for the survey. “For the first time since the inception of the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Index, Arkansas consumers reported the highest levels of consumer sentiment in the region. The state’s improving employment and income situation in both metropolitan and rural areas meant that both higher- and lower-income residents had reasons for optimism.”
The only decline came from Arkansan respondents who are age 18 to 24. The March reading of 91.5 was well below September’s reading of 121.0.
“The increased optimism of Arkansas consumers is easy to understand if you look around at the construction and business development happening now in our state,” said Craig Shy, executive vice president and loan manager for Arvest Bank in Fayetteville. “We’re seeing good activity in mortgage lending, so it seems our customers are feeling more confident, not only with where they are now financially but with where they think they will be in the future.”
The current regional index for Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri — including Greater Kansas City — is 83.4, up from September’s index of 82.6. The increase is aligned with movement within the national index, as reported by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. The national index was 90.0 for March, up from 87.2 in September.
Of the three states included in the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, only Arkansas reported an increase in overall consumer sentiment. Missouri and Oklahoma both reported slight decreases, from 85.8 in September to 83.9 in March in Missouri, and from 85.0 to 81.3 over the same period in Oklahoma.
The survey is conducted twice a year, with the next survey expected to conclude in August. 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.
Information about the survey, including past reports, can be found at: www.arvestconsumersurvey.com.