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Report: State's consumer confidence waning

STARKVILLE — Mississippians were less confident about the economy in the second quarter of 2011, with slow income growth, housing market uncertainty and higher commodity prices for some items, including food and beverages, among their concerns.

The latest Mississippi Index of Consumer Sentiment is showing a 1.5-point drop in confidence, taking the MSICS to a value of 76.5. This reading is consistent with recent values, but remains far short of a value of 90, which, historically, has been considered healthy.

“While the overall economy is expanding, the pace is very slow,” said editor Becky Smith of “Economy Watch” at Mississippi State University. “Mississippians are not seeing new jobs being created, and their optimism about where they are economically is very contained. Our research indicates consumers are less optimistic about growth prospects and job creation in the coming year.”

“Economy Watch” is published in cooperation with BankPlus and Entergy.

Other second-quarter survey findings include:

• Most consumers expect a slight decline of living standards because they anticipate no growth of income and rising prices of certain commodities. Very small gains in spending are expected in the second half of 2011.

• Overall, consumers expect moderately rising prices. Despite recent declines in gas prices, consumers are still concerned about higher future fuel and food costs stressing their families’ budgets. Housing, apparel, transportation, and medical care costs also saw modest increases.

• In Mississippi, employment has declined by 4,200 jobs between April and May across almost every sector as employers dealt with the national economic slowdown, severe weather and Mississippi River flooding. Despite the slow pace of job creation, there are some expectations of employment gains in the second half of the year.

More than 500 telephone surveys conducted by MSU’s Survey Research Laboratory produced the statistically significant results for the second quarter report.

Onyumbe Lukongo wrote the consumer confidence report for the latest issue of “Economy Watch,” while Brent Evans provided a 2011-15 economic forecast.  Both are MSU College of Business doctoral students.

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