Confidence among upstate consumers plunged to its lowest point since November 2011 and continued to lag both state and national confidence, a monthly survey by the Siena Research Institute shows.
Overall confidence—which includes current and future confidence—fell to 65.8 last month from 69.9 in February and 67.9 a year ago. The last time overall confidence among upstate consumers dipped below 66 was nearly 18 months ago.
Current confidence fell to 71.6 from 73.5 in February, but was up slightly from 71.3 a year ago. Future confidence dropped to 62 from 67.6 in February and 65.7 in March 2012.
Statewide, overall consumer confidence was 74.5 last month, compared with 77.3 in February and 76.3 a year ago. Current confidence rose to 77.3 from 76.9 in February and 75 a year ago, while future confidence fell to 72.7 from 77.6 in February and 77.1 a year ago.
Nationally, overall confidence was 78.6 in March, compared with 77.6 in February and 76.2 a year ago. Current confidence improved to 90.7 from 89 in February and 86 in March 2012. Future confidence was 70.8, from 70.2 in February and 69.8 a year ago.
“A wider angle look at consumer sentiment shows that New Yorkers have for the last 13 months been treading water at the breakeven point, at which there is only as much optimism as there continues to be pessimism,” SRI founding director Douglas Lonnstrom said. “The good news is that from the spring of ‘09 to New Years’ Day ‘12, we hovered 10 points and several moods lower. The bad news is that the breakeven point does not ‘prosperity make.’”
Democrats statewide continued to report the highest overall confidence last month, while Republicans continued to report the lowest confidence.
Some 74 percent of upstate consumers said gas prices are having a very serious or somewhat serious impact on their financial condition, compared with 70 percent in February. Seventy-one percent said food prices are having a serious impact on their finances, compared with 72 percent in February.
Buying plans were up for vehicles, furniture and major home improvements in March, while plans to purchase computer and homes were down.
The SRI consumer sentiment index was based on calls to 800 residents statewide last month.
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