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U.Va. Study Finds Area Residents Content, Optimistic About Economy

After registering a significant increase in positive outlook throughout 2012, residents of the Charlottesville area feel only slightly better about current economic conditions than they did in November 2012. Their overall consumer sentiment, however, remains more positive than that of Americans in general, according to a telephone survey of more than 1,000 area residents conducted by the University of Virginia's Center for Survey Research.

The Jefferson Area Community Survey, U.Va.’s omnibus survey of adult residents in six local jurisdictions (the city of Charlottesville, plus Albemarle, Nelson, Greene, Fluvanna and Louisa counties), reveals a Consumer Sentiment Index, or CSI, of 91.8, up from 90.3 in November. The survey debuted in early 2012 and was conducted for the third time in May and June 2013.

Derived from survey questions on present conditions and economic outlook, the Jefferson Area Community Survey CSI is calculated in the same manner as the long-running national Index of Consumer Sentiment, reported monthly by the University of Michigan. The Thomson Reuters-University of Michigan National Index of Consumer Sentiment for June 2013 was 84.1, up slightly from its 82.7 reading in November 2012.  

The Jefferson Area Community Survey also reveals that of the six jurisdictions, Charlottesville residents registered the greatest satisfaction with current conditions and the greatest optimism regarding business prospects, though the difference between Charlottesville and the other five jurisdictions has narrowed significantly since 2012. Fluvanna County was the only jurisdiction in the area in which a greater percentage of residents indicated they were “worse off” than “better off,” compared to a year ago.

“Most of these interviews were conducted in May,” Center for Survey Research director Tom Guterbock said. “With recently released jobs data in hand, we now know that the May unemployment report brought signs of a small increase in unemployment, for Virginia and for three of the four largest Jefferson area jurisdictions, Charlottesville, Albemarle and Fluvanna.”

“Our economy and our region’s consumer sentiment never dipped as low as that of the rest of the country,” research analyst David Shreve said, “largely because the Charlottesville area benefitted from relatively stable public investments during the recent recession – especially in higher education. 

“However, we can’t be certain that our area will continue to echo the national trend. Like the rest of Virginia, with its surpassing economic dependence on the nearby federal presence and purse, the Charlottesville area is especially vulnerable to the still-unfolding negative effects of sequestration and associated fiscal austerity.”

Guterbock said the survey is intended to help inform local communities and their leaders. “The survey is designed in general to serve the increasing need for scientifically based survey information about the greater Charlottesville region, and it’s organized in such a way to reach a representative sample of the region’s cell phones and landlines,” he said. “It also allows area government agencies, nonprofit organizations and academic researchers to ask distinct questions of their choosing.

“We’re pleased to offer the survey as an important tool for researchers and public servants throughout the community.”

Shreve added, “The survey’s consumer sentiment component, reflecting the kind of outlook long recognized as a leading economic indicator, ought to interest any organization that must account for, or which might hope to influence, the area’s economic prospects.” 

 

 

JACS3 Affirmative Responses, May-June 2013 

 

JACS Consumer Sentiment

C’ville

Albemarle

Nelson

Greene

Fluvanna

Louisa

Whole Region

Better off Now Than Year Ago

43.4%

34.3%

37.0%

39.3%

29.2%

37.5%

36.5%

Expect to be Better off a Year From Now

34.0%

31.5%

44.3%

16.0%

24.0%

25.9%

30.1%

Expect Good Times for Business a Year from Now

56.6%

48.6%

48.3%

32.3%

38.8%

38.6%

46.4%

 

 

JACS2 Affirmative Responses, Oct-Nov. 2012

JACS Consumer Sentiment

C’ville

Albemarle

Nelson

Greene

Fluvanna

Louisa

Whole Region

Better off Now Than Year Ago

44.4%

32.0%

27.1%

31.5%

25.7%

23.4%

31.8

Expect to be Better off a Year From Now

37.9%

36.8%

31.0%

29.7%

37.3%

12.9%

32.7

Expect Good Times for Business a Year from Now

52.1%

37.9%

34.7%

41.1%

38.8%

31.4%

39.9

 

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