Consumers in the Buffalo Niagara region are feeling a little more willing to spend.
A new survey by researchers at Siena College found that local consumers were more willing to spend on major purchases during the spring than they were during the winter. In fact, their willingness to spend during the spring was at the second-highest level for any quarter since the Great Recession began almost six years ago.
The increase in consumer confidence mirrored an increased feeling of optimism among consumers both nationally and statewide as unemployment has declined.
In the Buffalo Niagara region, consumer confidence improved by almost 5 percent during the second quarter, erasing most of a first-quarter decline and extending a slow recovery in sentiment levels that began during the summer of 2010, according to the Siena Research Institute, which conducts a quarterly survey of consumer confidence in New York’s major cities.
Consumer sentiment levels during the spring were about 1 percent stronger than they were a year ago, although the number of consumers expressing pessimism about their spending plans still outnumbers those who are feeling optimistic.
Confidence levels, however, still are 46 percent better than they were at the depths of the recession more than four years ago.
And consumers locally remain cautious, with a significant number of those surveyed saying the feel less upbeat about the future than they feel about their current situation.
“Consumers remain skeptical about the future,” said Douglas Lonnstrom, the founding director of the Siena Research Institute.
Confidence levels in the Buffalo Niagara region are 10 percent lower than the national levels, and they are 4 percent below the statewide rate, Siena said.
The survey of 400 consumers measures their willingness to spend on a wide range of items, from vehicles and furniture to computers and home improvements.
Consumers across New York shared the more upbeat mood of Buffalo Niagara consumers. Confidence levels strengthened in each of the nine major cities included in the Siena survey, except for New York City. The improvement in consumer sentiment in the Buffalo Niagara region was the sixth strongest among the nine metro areas included in the survey.
Among upstate cities, sentiment levels improved the most in Utica and Syracuse, and they rose the least in Binghamton and the Mid-Hudson Valley region, the survey found.
The survey also continues to show a wide gap between the current buying plans of local consumers and their plans for future spending. While consumers in Buffalo Niagara ranked fourth statewide on their willingness to spend now, they ranked fifth on their long-term spending plans. Sentiment levels locally are about 15 percent lower for the future than they are for now.