MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- With the holiday season in full swing, midstate consumers have a gloomier economic outlook compared with their views earlier this fall, according to the latest three-county survey by Middle Tennessee State University.
Though perceptions of the economy improved during much of 2013, the latest Middle Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index shows the overall index falling sharply to 122 this month from 199 in September.
The results from the MTSU Office of Consumer Research mirror the national downward trend of consumer confidence reported by the Conference Board, a New York-based private research firm.
“Local consumers view the current U.S. economy a bit more negatively than they did in September, and local consumers are adopting a more pessimistic view of the future of the economy,” said Tim Graeff, director of the Office of Consumer Research, which is part of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business.
“A decrease in consumer outlook such as this is definitely not welcome news for local businesses and retailers as we head into the ever-important Christmas and holiday shopping season,” Graeff said.
For some businesses, sales generated in the last two months of the year can be as much as 40 percent of their total annual sales.
“Whether this general negative view of the economy finds its way into local consumers’ shopping plans for this Christmas and holiday season remains to be seen,” Graeff said.
The current poll of 302 randomly selected adult residents of Davidson, Rutherford and Williamson counties was conducted Dec. 4 and Dec 6.
The Office of Consumer Research computes the index by adding the percentage of favorable responses to each of a series of questions and subtracting the percentage of negative responses.
The latest dip in consumer confidence reverses a trend of gradual increase in the index, which showed a score of 106 in November 2012, 144 in February and 193 in April.
The December survey showed a number of factors weighing on consumers’ minds as they make shopping and spending plans for the rest of the year.
Several participants said they are concerned about the stability of the U.S. economy, while they are also worried about long-term fixes to solving the national debt problem, as well as extending the debt ceiling.
Frustrations with the new health care law and concerns about its possible negative effect on the economy, as well as gridlock in Congress, are also weighing on consumers’ minds.
All of this also affects how consumers feel about the future of the job market, in addition to continued worries about a slow economic recovery.
Local consumers were also asked about the recent Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed “Obamacare,” and its possible effect on the overall economy.
A majority of local consumers said they expect Obamacare to have a negative effect on the overall U.S. economy.
-- Marie Kemph, firstname.lastname@example.org