MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY
The Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index rose to 134 this month, up from 113 in December, according to the latest statewide snapshot of consumers by Middle Tennessee State University’s Office of Consumer Research, results that suggest consumers across the state continue to feel better about the economy, future job market as well as their personal financial situations.
The quarterly survey consists of a series of questions that measure areas such as how consumers feel about the local, state and national economies as well as their personal financial situations and the job market.
“Although Tennessee consumers continue to have concerns about the current state of the labor market and the ease with which jobs can be found, consumers have become more optimistic regarding the future job market,” said Tim Graeff, director of the Office of Consumer Research in MTSU’s Jones College of Business. “This pattern of optimism regarding the future job market is shared among the three regions of the state.”
The current survey of 615 Tennessee consumers was conducted March 1-8, with a margin of error of 4 percent. A copy of the full report and previous report are available at www.mtsu.edu/consumer/
In addition to tracking an overall index, the survey includes sub-indices that measure consumers’ views on their current financial situations, future expectations and purchasing plans. The latest survey shows consumers are more optimistic about personal finances, and personal saving appears to be rising.
“There was a large net increase in the percent of consumers who are saving more than they did last year,” Graeff noted. “Having both the desire and the ability to save for the future is a sign of increasing health in terms of personal finances.”
Other survey highlights include:
• The largest gain in overall consumer confidence is in East Tennessee, with confidence among Middle Tennessee consumers falling back slightly.
• The largest net increase in optimism regarding the future job market is in Middle Tennessee. Such increases in optimism are reflected in the most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that domestic employers added 235,000 new jobs in February.
• The Purchasing Index declined slightly to 46 from 49 in December. This suggests recent gains in optimism might not translate into immediate spending increases as consumers look to save more.
• However, delayed spending is not always a bad thing, the report noted. Increased saving allows consumers to get their financial footing and set the stage for even more future spending.
“Taken together, these results are good news for businesses and retailers,” Graeff said. “The outlook for future consumer spending is brightened as consumers become more optimistic about the future of the economy, are able to save more money, and continue to feel more confident in the availability of jobs should they need to find one.”