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Poll: NY-area consumers shake off COVID pessimism

Results of a Siena College poll showed that

Results of a Siena College poll showed that metropolitan-area residents are feeling more optimistic about the economy but rising gas prices have them concerned. Credit: Bloomberg/Rachel Wisniewski

Consumer confidence in the metropolitan area continues to recover from its dramatic fall a year ago when the coronavirus struck.

The Siena College Research Institute reported Thursday that its Index of Consumer Sentiment was 84.2 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 November 2019 it was 93.3.

The latest sentiment reading is the second 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 confidence has slowly rebounded since last summer from March 2020’s record low. Retailers and economists closely follow the index because optimistic consumers are more likely to make purchases and consumer spending accounts for about 70% of economic activity.

Siena pollster Douglas Lonnstrom said consumer confidence has "reached highs not seen since the coronavirus pandemic began. Still, despite showing encouraging optimism, sentiment is not back to where it was" in late 2019.

In the metropolitan area, 57% of residents said food prices were either a very serious or a somewhat serious problem in March, up from 56% in December. In March 2020, 58% of residents expressed concern.

In terms of gasoline prices, 40% of residents surveyed last month said pump prices were either a very serious or somewhat serious problem, up from 36% in December. In March 2020, 29% of residents were worried about gas prices.

Siena, based in Loudonville, near Albany, polled 800 adults in New York State on March 1-8. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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