Shoppers at Neiman Marcus at Hudson Yards in Manhattan on...

Shoppers at Neiman Marcus at Hudson Yards in Manhattan on March 14. A new Siena survey sees rising consumer confidence for the metro area, which includes Long Island. Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan

Consumer confidence in the metropolitan area rose last month compared with a year earlier, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The Siena College Research Institute reported its Index of Consumer Sentiment was at 96.3 points in March for Long Island, New York City and its northern suburbs. A year earlier, the index stood at 89.3.

Consumer sentiment readings above 76 points indicate that the number of residents who are optimistic about their immediate financial future is larger than the number who are pessimistic.

The index hit a 10-year high of 97.6 points in December.

The readings display “continuing strength among consumers,” said Siena pollster Douglas Lonnstrom.

In the metro area 41 percent of residents surveyed said gasoline prices were either a very or somewhat serious problem last month, down from 42 percent in December. A year ago, 25 percent of residents were worried about prices at the pump.

In terms of food prices, 58 percent said they were either a very serious or somewhat serious problem last month, up from 42 percent in December. A year ago, 57 percent of residents expressed concern.

Still, Lonnstrom said worry about the cost of gasoline and food “should not slow the economy.”

Retailers and economists closely follow confidence indexes because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.

Siena, based in upstate Loudonville, near Albany, polled 804 adults in New York State between March 7 and 20. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

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