Consumer sentiment in New York outpacing nation, but far lower than pre-pandemic levels
The Siena College Research Institute is out with its quarterly Index of Consumer Sentiment for New York State.
The New York State Index of Consumer Sentiment is up 1.5 points from the third quarter of 2022 to 72.3, according to the latest poll. Director Don Levy says the state’s overall index of consumer sentiment is 12.6 points above the nation’s index of 59.7.
"Overall, sentiment is relatively steady, up about a point to three points on every single index," Levy said. "Noteworthy, the index here in the state of New York continues to outpace the national level of consumer sentiment by a significant margin almost 13 points. New York's number is driven most especially by our friends in New York City. They have an overall index of 76.6. That's right at the breakeven point where optimism and pessimism are balanced. Here upstate our index is about 10 points lower than it is in New York City, at about 66. Still, 66 is an improvement from where it was last quarter. Consumer sentiment is up across upstate by about six points."
Levy says overall confidence is also higher in New York than nationally. He notes that in the fourth quarter of 2022, buying plans for motor vehicles went up.
"We can see that in terms of consumer demand, it continues to be high, intent to purchase major consumer items remains strong, although down for several home improvements, electronics, furniture down just a little bit,"Levy said. "Noteworthy, we see that the intent to people have to buy cars and trucks is up. In fact at the highest rate we've seen for several years. Nearly one out of four New Yorkers say that they intend to purchase a vehicle over the next six months."
But Siena finds inflation, food prices and political uncertainty may be contributing to New York’s current consumer sentiment coming in 20 points lower than before the pandemic. Levy says two-thirds of New Yorkers report current gas prices are continuing to have a serious impact on their finances.
"The impact that gas and food prices are having: 66% say that the gas prices are having a an effect on our budget," said Levy. "That's down three points from last quarter, but still continues to be high despite the fact that gas prices have dropped. The one that continues to really bite the pocketbook is the cost of groceries. 79% of us, nearly eight out of 10 New Yorkers, say that the cost at the grocery store is having a serious impact on their family budget. That's up just a point from where it was last quarter. So we're entering into a prolonged period where nearly eight out of 10 of us today that food prices are seriously affecting their budget."
Amanda Powers with the Retail Council of New York State says the Siena poll is "right on target."
"Inflation, the word on everyone's lips right now," Powers said. "Higher gas prices, higher grocery prices, those are still affecting shoppers, for sure. Inflation in particular explains why the optimism level is quite a bit lower than it was pre-pandemic. But, you know, all those factors considered, shoppers are still spending. In fact, the holiday spending was a bit higher than expected and in line with growth over previous years. We think at the Retail Council, the most encouraging part of the survey is the optimism for the future, which New York is a solid 16 points higher than the national average at 76%. So we're very encouraged by that."
Levy says a breakdown of survey data by demographic groups offered a few surprises.
"Over this quarter we saw the overall sentiment of the Republicans across the state of New York increase by nearly eight points," said Levy. "Of any of the demographic groups that we track, that was the group that had the single largest increase. Perhaps a little bit of enthusiasm over taking control of the House of Representatives. Of course, the poll was taken before the turmoil in terms of picking a speaker. Still, what was a significant gap between Democrats and Republicans in terms of sentiment. Democrats continue to have a sentiment that is the highest of any demographic. Look at it, 87 above the breakeven point, Republicans were just a hair under 50 last quarter, and that increase of nearly eight points has brought them to 57, closing the gap with their Democratic friends."
The poll was conducted in mid-December by random telephone calls to 403 New York adults via landline and cell phones and 399 responses drawn from a proprietary online panel of New Yorkers. Respondent sampling via phone was initiated by asking for the youngest person in the household. The overall results has an overall margin of error of + 3.6 percentage points including the design effects resulting from weighting when applied to buying plans and/or the perceived impacts of gas and food prices.