A shopper pushes a cart of lumber through a Lowes...

A shopper pushes a cart of lumber through a Lowes store. A Long Island confidence survey in April 2011 shows increased spending on home projects. (January 2006) Credit: AP, 2006

Long Islanders were more confident about their economic future in the first quarter than at anytime in more than two years, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The Siena College Research Institute found consumer confidence in Nassau and Suffolk counties during the January-March period was at its highest since surveying began in late 2008. Only New York City residents were more optimistic, while those living upstate were glum.

"We are now leaning towards a tale of two states," said Douglas Lonnstrom, a finance professor and institute founder. "Downstate, New York City and Long Island were the only areas with increasing current confidence and overall, they have separated themselves from the black economic cloud that simply won’t vacate the rest of the state."

Among the state’s nine regions, Long Islanders were the most optimistic about current economic conditions and placed No.2, behind New York City residents, in terms of future conditions.

Still, the growing confidence doesn’t appear to be translating into more shopping. The number of Long Islanders planning to purchase an automobile, computer or home fell from late last year. There was a slight uptick in those expecting to buy furniture and a sizable increase in those planning a major home improvement project.

Lonnstrom said there was "a reluctance to buy big ticket items with only major home improvements keeping the spending door slightly ajar."

Retailers closely watch consumer confidence numbers because they often indicate the willingness of shoppers to open their wallets.

Read more of Inside Long Island Business


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