Consumer confidence in the metropolitan area was up sharply last month compared with a year ago as gasoline prices fell.

The Siena College Research Institute reported Wednesday its confidence index for Long Island, New York City and the northern suburbs was 88.7 points. A year earlier the index was 77.5.

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Readings above 76.1 points indicate the number of people who are optimistic about their immediate financial future is greater than the number who are pessimistic.

In the metro area, only 31 percent of respondents said gas prices were a very serious or somewhat serious problem. Fifty-three percent felt that way in March 2014.

Lower gasoline prices feel "like a raise" for many people "and that contributes to the more robust confidence and willingness to spend," said Siena pollster Douglas Lonnstrom.