”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations, noting that these grades are best seen as a mix of art and data.
Buzz: California optimism has hit a nine-month high despite soaring inflation, high gas prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to one poll.
Source: The Conference Board’s monthly polling of shoppers to create various consumer confidence indexes, including one for California.
The overall statewide index was 125.2 in March — up from a revised 113.7 a month earlier and up from 110.2 a year ago. Last time optimism was higher was high was June 2021 — and before that, May 2019.
That’s a 10% one-month gain and a 14% gain over 12 months. California confidence averaged 113 in the five years before the pandemic.
Now let’s look at two measures inside the statewide index …
California consumers’ view of current conditions: Improved, with index at 156.3 for the month — up from 134.5 a month earlier and above 84.3 a year earlier. This measure averaged 141 in 2015-19.
Shoppers’ outlook: Upbeat, with index at 104.6 for the month — up from 99.8 the previous month and down from 127.5 a year earlier. This measure averaged 94 in 2015-19.
The Conference Board tracks the nation and seven other states — Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. How did California compare?
Overall confidence: three increases among the seven states in a month; one up over the year. National? up for the month; lower over 12 months.
Current conditions: seven increases in a month; seven up over the year. National? up for the month; higher over 12 months.
Outlook: three increases in a month; none up over the year. National? down for the month; lower over 12 months.
Arch-rivals? Texas’ overall confidence fell 4% in the month; decreased 13% in the year. Florida? 5% one-month drop; 10% 12-month dip.
The Conference Board also asks consumers nationwide about the job market and plans to make major purchases in the next six months …
More jobs? 17.4% down from 19.4% in a month; down from 35.4% 12 months ago.
Buy a home? 5.8% — same as month before — and down from 7.1% 12 months ago.
Buy a vehicle? 9.3% down from 10.7% in a month; down from 12.2% 12 months ago.“
Major appliance purchase? 47.4% up from 45.8% in a month; down from 52% 12 months ago.
And then there’s the latest unnerving trend, inflation. People polled expect the cost of living to be 7.9% higher in a year, up from 7.1% the month before and up from 6.4% a year earlier.
Californians seem relatively thrilled with their finances of late vs. their fellow Americans.
Consider the ratio between state and national optimism: Californians were 16.8% more confident in March vs. 7.6% happier a month earlier. That’s a switch from other Americans being 4.1% more confident in March 2021.
Big question: Is this Golden State confidence misplaced?
Jonathan Lansner is business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org