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            New York's consumer confidence drops at record pace as coronavirus grips state, Siena survey finds

            Photo of Larry Rulison
            Larry Rulison

            COLONIE - Consumer confidence in the economy dropped at a record rate in New York as the coronavirus pandemic roiled public sentiment in New York City and the Capital Region, the latest Siena College体彩app官方网站 Research Institute survey found.

            Siena's New York State Index of Consumer Sentiment fell 26.6 points to 66.4 points, the largest drop in consumer confidence in the state since December 2011, during the housing crash of the Great Recession. The index, only recently near an all-time high in the state, is now below the level that marks the line of where optimism turns to total pessimism.

            Doug Lonnstrom, the founder of the Siena research institute, said he has never seen consumer confidence drop off so quickly in 20 years of collecting the data.

            "Certainly this is the largest drop we've ever seen," Lonnstrom said. "That's not surprising. Everybody is getting crushed here."

            A majority of New Yorkers lost so much faith in the economy due to the outbreak that they consider it a bad idea to buy major consumer items, putting off the purchases of 体彩app官方网站s, cars, electronics, furniture or going ahead with 体彩app官方网站 improvements they were happily planning just months ago when the state's consumer sentiment index was measured at 93 points.

            Mass layoffs have gripped both the New York City area and the Capital Region as businesses from car dealers to restaurants were forced by the government to shut their doors and send workers 体彩app官方网站. The ability to offer take-out or online sales has not sustained consumer demand, especially for large purchases.

            The consumer sentiment is worse in New York City than in the Capital Region and other upstate communities. Upstate's consumer sentiment index was measured at 68.9 points upstate, versus 64.8 percent in metro New York City which is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak at this time.

            There was a very slight silver lining in the data. Due to the dramatic fall of global oil prices and as people drive less as they shelter in place in the Capital Region and across the state, households are less worried about their gas bills than they have been in years. Crude oil prices have fallen from the mid-$60 per barrel range to lower than $30 a barrel as major oil producers have fought over output during the pandemic.

            Only 27 percent of consumers in New York are worried about gas prices, down from 41 percent during the fourth quarter of 2019 when the economy was humming along and gas prices were higher. Consumers, many avoiding grocery store lines in favor of having their food delivered, are still relatively concerned about food prices amid some shortages as supermarkets scramble to restock shelves after bouts of panic buying in the early days of the virus outbreak, which has killed more than 5,000 people in New York state.

            Perhaps not surprisingly, New Yorkers are divided in their outlook on their spending habits based on their gender, politics and income levels.

            Republican men in the higher income brackets have the rosiest outlook on the economy and consumer sentiment, while women and Democrats and those with incomes below $50,000 a year are most worried.

            For instance, Republicans who responded to the Siena survey see future consumer sentiment in the state rising to above 80 points in the future, while Democrats as a whole see the future staying bleak with a forecast of 63.5 points, which is below the current outlook for the state overall.

            Lonnstrom isn't surprised by that difference since the lowest-paid hourly workers are suffering the most economic and job losses.

            "Certainly the hourly workers, the retail workers are just absolutely devastated," Lonnstrom noted.

            Consumer confidence in the state hit lower levels in 2011 and 2008 in the wake of the global banking crisis and the Great Recession, but the drop-off in the spending outlook has never happened so fast, the Siena survey found. The first quarter data was collected from March 30 to April 2 through phone calls and 400 online responses from household adults.

            Despsite the huge drop in consumer confidence, the data does show that if the outbreak begins to slow in New York, consumer spending could improve as well – at least that is what consumers are signaling with higher future index numbers projected by survey respondents.

            Lonnstrom says if you break out the data into the current sentiment and the overall sentiment, and compare it to future sentiment, you can forecast that if things eventually get closer to being back to normal, spending outlook could rise.

            For instance, while the overall consumer spending index in New York state is 66.4 points, the current index that is not as nuanced is at 62.2 points. However, the future consumer index was measured at 69.1, which could be an indicator of where the index might go in the next quarter if things go well. That could mean a quicker recovery in spending habits than in previous economic downturns.

            "They have a little bit of hope for the future," Lonnstrom said.