NJ Consumers Express Some Optimism In New Survey

STATE – Nearly half (47%) of New Jersey consumers expect to be better off financially this year, while fewer than one-in-five (19%) expect to be worse off, according to a quarterly consumer survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silberman College of Business.

According to the survey, 32% of New Jerseyans say that they are better off financially than they were last year, up seven points from a year ago, and the highest percentage measured since 2006. Two in five (41%) say they are worse off than a year ago, a seven-point decline from 48% in January of 2011, the lowest percentage measured since 2008.

These improvements are seen across every income and age bracket, with the largest gain coming in the 18-29 age group, where 57% say they are better off than last year, up 19 points from the January 2011 figure. Those in the lowest income range (0-$50k) saw a double digit decline in those saying they are worse off than a year ago (to 44% down 11 points).

“The economy is definitely improving,” said Sorin Tuluca, professor of finance at the Silberman College of Business. “What’s interesting is that consumers realize that the economic improvement does not mean that we will go back to the economy of the past. They are more realistic in assessing their economic prospects.”

Unemployment continues to be a factor in the state, with 63% of New Jerseyans saying they, or someone close to them has lost a job in the past year, essentially unchanged from 2011 (65%). Also, despite the general sense of overall economic improvement, the percentage of New Jerseyans “somewhat” or “very” concerned about losing their job in the upcoming year remains steady at 32%.

“While still moving slowly, employment is picking up,” added Tuluca. “In the past quarter, unemployment dropped by about 1% and this is reflected in the survey.”

Other key findings of the study:

  • 32% say it is “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to make payments on their credit card, down from 35% in 2011.
  • 58% are “very” worried about inflation.
  • Only 25% are confident the next generation will live better than us. Renters (36%) are more confident than homeowners (21%).
  • Given a windfall of $1,000, a plurality (49%) would use it to pay bills, and 12% would spend it, both unchanged from 2011. However, this year only 30% would save it, down from 36% a year ago. Renters (61%) are more likely than home owners (44%) to use the money to pay bills.

On the housing front, often a leading indicator of recovery, only 46% think prices will increase in value in 2012. This continues the downward trend from 49% in January 2011 and 56% in January 2010. Homeowners (16%) are more likely than renters (6%) to say housing prices will be flat in the upcoming 12 months.

The telephone survey of 660 randomly selected adults throughout New Jersey who participate in their household’s financial decisions is sponsored by the Silberman College of Business at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and was conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind™ from January 2 through January 8, 2012 and has a margin of error of +/- 4% percentage points.

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