Consumer sentiment in upstate New York was measured at 73.8 in the third quarter of 2020, up 5.8 points from the last reading of 68 in this year’s second quarter.
That’s according to the latest quarterly survey of Upstate and statewide consumer sentiment that the Siena College Research Institute (SRI) released Oct. 7.
Upstate’s overall sentiment of 73.8 was 0.6 points below the statewide consumer-sentiment level of 74.4, which rose 3.4 points from the second quarter.
The statewide figure was 6 points lower than the third-quarter figure of 80.4 for the entire nation, which was up 2.3 points from the second-quarter measurement, as measured by the University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment index.
All three indexes for New York state improved this quarter and are approaching — or in the case of the future index, has exceeded — their breakeven points at which optimism and pessimism balance, SRI said. The national indexes all rose and each remains above the breakeven point.
“While still down nearly 20 points from pre-pandemic levels, the [statewide] index of consumer sentiment improved this quarter, and now stands just below the balancing point of optimism and pessimism,” Doug Lonnstrom, professor of statistics and finance at Siena College and SRI founding director, said. “The [statewide] future index [of 76.6], a measure of confidence both personal and collective, is up over 5 points overall and between 8 and 10 points among Republicans, Upstaters, and young people. Driven by New York City residents, plans to purchase a new home hit an all-time high at nearly 13 percent overall and almost 17 percent among [New York City consumers].”
In the third quarter of 2020, buying plans were up 0.2 percentage points since the second quarter to 19.5 for cars and trucks; increased 4.5 points to 46.6 percent for consumer electronics; edged up 2.3 points to 27.6 percent for furniture; rose 3.9 points to 12.6 percent for homes; and up 3.5 points to 26.5 percent for major home improvements.
Gas and food prices
In SRI’s quarterly analysis of gas and food prices, 31 percent of upstate New York respondents said the price of gas was having a serious impact on their monthly budgets, which is up from 19 percent in the second quarter and from 26 percent in the first quarter.
In addition, 30 percent of statewide respondents said the price of gas was having a serious impact on their monthly spending plans, up from 25 percent in the second quarter, 27 percent in the first quarter, and down from 41 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.
When asked about food prices, 57 percent of upstate respondents indicated the price of groceries was having a serious impact on their finances, up from 54 percent in the second quarter and 49 percent in the first quarter.
At the same time, 59 percent of statewide respondents indicated the price of food was having a serious impact on their monthly finances, up from 58 percent in the second quarter and 55 percent in the first quarter.
SRI conducted its survey of consumer sentiment between Aug. 20 and Sept. 29 by random telephone calls to 402 New York adults via landline and cell phone. It has an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points, according to SRI.