- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2011

Washington-area residents are losing confidence in the economy and in whether conditions will improve amid concerns about jobs and their financial stability, according to survey released Thursday by the Greater Washington Board of Trade.

The Consumer Confidence Index showed a decline of 6 points — from 58 to 52 — across the region since December 2010, when the group last conducted the survey. The number is higher than the 49 the survey found in December 2008, at the peak of the recession. The high mark in the past three years was 62 in June 2010.

The index is derived from answers to a series of questions given to 800 people about their perceptions of current economic conditions and future expectations about the economy and personal finances.

The biggest drop was among suburban Maryland residents, whose confidence declined 6 points, from 55 to 47. The decline among Northern Virginia residents was from 57 to 52 while consumer confidence remained the same in the District, at 66 points.

“The findings really don’t surprise me considering a lot of things happened in the second quarter,” said Karen Glenn Hood, a communications director for the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development. She cited the debate over the federal debt ceiling and the stagnant national unemployment rate as factors.

Residents showed little confidence about employment prospects and had an ever bleaker outlook when asked if they would be spending more in the future.

Just 13 percent said jobs are “plentiful and easy to find,” while 63 percent said jobs are scarce and hard to find. Furthermore, just 28 percent said the local job situation will improve, while 47 percent said it will remain the same.

Ms. Hood acknowledge being a little surprised by job numbers considering some major economic developments in suburban Maryland, including Choice Hotels deciding to keep its headquarters in Montgomery County and embark on a major expansion.

Fifty percent said now is a “bad time” to make a major purchase such as large TV or computer. Just 9 percent expected somebody in their family to buy or lease a vehicle in the next six months, compared to 87 percent who said no to the possibility.

Based on such factors as income, savings and investments, 26 percent expected their financial situation to improve, compared to 59 percent who expected it to stay the same.

Area residents´ outlook on the national economy appeared even worse, according to the survey, conducted July 7 to 9 for the Board of Trade by the D.C.-based Clarus Research Group. The trade board is one of the region’s largest business leagues with members ranging from Fortune 100 companies to nonprofits.

Only 17 percent said the current conditions are good, and 68 percent said they were bad.



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