The Tutoring Toy in Salt Lake City seemed an appropriate place to announce the latest findings in Zions Bank’s monthly consumer attitude index. That’s where Zions economic consultant Chad Berbert revealed that while faith in the economy dipped slightly from last month, Utah families are expected to spend a median of $700 this holiday season, which is up $200 from last year.
Berbert said that suggests consumers are feeling good about their personal financial circumstances, even if the broader outlook has gone down a bit.
Utah continues to outpace the country in unemployment and job growth, which Berbert said are among two of the biggest drivers of consumer confidence and spending. The state’s unemployment is around 2.5%, only slightly above the state’s historic 2007 low of 2.4%.
“The employment situation has been so strong, it’s hard to imagine things improving even more,” Berbert said. With record high job confidence in October, Utahns’ economic outlook may have topped out.
Nationwide, the sentiment is similar. Consumer spending appears strong heading into the holiday season, though consumer confidence dipped for a fourth straight month as economic growth has slowed toward the end of the year.
Berbert said consumer attitudes are important to track because they can have an effect on the broader economy.
“There is a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “As people feel like there may be more of a recession in the future they stop spending as much and then that can help bring one about.”
Berbert said if there is one thing to watch for going forward, it’s government spending. He said it’s been at a historic high for the last few years and there is some concern that it could be giving the economy an artificial boost, which may not be sustainable for the long term.