Consumer confidence in the metropolitan area has nearly bounced back to where it was before the coronavirus struck — but could dampen again because of rising gasoline prices, officials said.
The Siena College Research Institute reported Wednesday that its Index of Consumer Sentiment was 87.9 points last month for Long Island, New York City and its northern suburbs. In March 2020, the index stood at 64.8, an eight-year low, and in March 2021 it was 84.2.
The latest sentiment reading is the third since 2019 to be above the index’s break-even mark of 76 points. That means the number of residents who are optimistic about their immediate financial future is larger than the number who are pessimistic.
"Consumer sentiment continued to climb" in June as "residents start to see light at the end of their economic tunnel," said Siena pollster Douglas Lonnstrom. The "belief in a better tomorrow is now nearly as strong as it was before the pandemic."
However, he continued, "as concern over the impact of gas now exceeds 50% and approaches two-thirds for food, price increases, or inflation, could slow this recovery."
In the metropolitan area, 51% of residents said gasoline prices were either a very serious or somewhat serious problem in June, up from 40% in March. In June 2020, 29% of residents were worried about pump prices.
Separately, AAA reported the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline on Wednesday was $3.19 on Long Island. That’s an increase of 3 cents from a week ago and 13 cents higher than a month ago. A gallon of regular cost $2.19 a year ago.
Siena also found heightened concern about food prices. In the metro area, 62% of residents said the cost of food was either a very serious or somewhat serious problem in June, up from 57% in March. In June 2020, 61% of residents were worried about food prices.
Retailers and economists closely follow Siena’s consumer sentiment index because optimistic consumers are more likely to make purchases and consumer spending accounts for 70% of all economic activity.
Siena, based in Loudonville, near Albany, polled 809 adults in New York State on June 16-29. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
PUMP PRICES ON LI
The average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was:
$3.19 on Wednesday
$3.16 a week ago
$3.06 a month ago
$2.19 a year ago
SOURCE: AAA Gas Prices