It may not be the heady days of a decade ago.
But consumer confidence in Arizona now is the highest it’s been since the wheels came off the economy.
The new report by the Behavior Research Center puts the confidence index for the state at 88.4. That’s based on a scale of 100 for what Arizonans were feeling in 1985.
And while that may not seem like much, it’s literally double where it was at the beginning of 2009 in the depths of the recession.
The index is based on how Arizonans see both current and future employment and business conditions.
What makes all that important is it can be self-fulfilling: If consumers believe things are getting better, they’re more likely to spend money. And the increased spending boosts the economy, increasing the demand for products and services which, in turn, means companies need to hire more people.
“It is certainly a good signal to retailers that the second half of the year may be very active,” said pollster Earl de Berge.
Economist Dennis Hoffman of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University echoed that optimist.
“It’s good that folks are feeling good,” he said.
Hoffman said the numbers reflect what has been solid job growth in the private sector in Arizona. The most recent figures show the state adding 74,900 jobs year over year, an increase of 3.4 percent.
And Hoffman said that government jobs, notably in K-12 education, may pick up with schools getting a bump of new money from voter approval of Proposition 123.
But Hoffman also noted the survey of 700 adult heads of household was conducted between June 6 and 19. That was before voters in Great Britain approved “Brexit” and withdrawal from the European Union.
There was an immediate drop in the U.S. stock market, though investors seem to now be taking a more tempered look at the vote. Hoffman said while the effect will be the greatest in Great Britain, it remains to be seen how the fallout from that affects the rest of the world.
And there’s the question of whether some of the factors that led to the Brexit vote exist elsewhere — including here.
“Is there a latent or underlying distrust of institutions and establishments like there apparently is in Britain?” Hoffman explained. “Is that a part of what the Arizona psyche is?”
And then there’s politics.
“Will they be disappointed by the election and will they hunker down and not spend?” he mused.
The brightest spot in the survey, Hoffman said, has been Pima County, where optimism has really perked up, gaining more than 13 points.
But here, too, there’s a bit of a mix.
Asked about current business conditions, just 19 percent of those questioned in Pima County rate them as good, compared with 34 percent in Maricopa County and 27 percent in the other 13 counties.
And more than a third of Pima residents think jobs remain hard to get, versus 22 percent in Maricopa County. Still, that’s better than the rest of the state where half of those who responded said it’s hard to find a job.
Hoffman said that’s not surprising, given the limited mix of the Pima economy.
He said the state’s universities have had “a tough go.” But Hoffman pointed out that the University of Arizona is a much bigger share of Pima employment than Arizona State University is to Maricopa.
And there’s the underlying weakness in defense and aerospace, which also had a big impact on Pima County.
Yet, with all that, optimism remains that things will get better.
Consider: Only 6 percent of Pima residents think there will be fewer jobs in six months. That compares with 17 percent in Maricopa County.
And 30 percent of those questioned in Pima County think jobs will be more available by the end of the year, versus 25 percent in Maricopa County.
But while Pima residents think there will be more jobs, they’re not convinced they’re going to be earning any more.
Just 14 percent of Pima residents think family income six months from now will be higher, a number on par with the views of those in rural areas; the figure is nearly double in Maricopa County.