MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — A new survey finds the outlook for consumers in Tennessee is at an all-time low.
This comes from the Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, where the college of business does the surveys four times a year with at least 600 consumers statewide.
According to the report, the outlook among Tennessee consumers has “declined considerably” since last December amid inflation worries, rising gas prices, the war in Ukraine and dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden.
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MTSU Marketing Professor and Office of Consumer Research Director Tim Graeff said traditionally, consumers in Tennessee tend to be much more positive than the rest of the country because the state has a stable and diversified economy.
“Now we have seen that when we ask them about the overall economy, consumers in Tennessee are less positive. They’re, more pessimistic than folks across the rest of the country, which was a shock to me,” said Graeff.
Graeff said the consumer outlook was due to deteriorating views of the current economy, more pessimistic expectations for the future of the economy, and waning beliefs that now is a good time to make large purchases.
“I think consumers are just reacting to the uncertainty, they’re reacting to everything happening at once. Maybe as things start to settle down, they might feel a little bit more upbeat, a little bit more as they normally would and begin to spend more,” he said, adding that another factor was the stock market with more people saying the values of their investments were going down.
The outlook index registered a score of -198, which is down significantly from -93 in December and besting the previous all-time low -106 in September. The current online survey of 646 Tennessee consumers was conducted earlier this month and has an error margin of 4%.
Graeff explained that measures of the economy like GDP, inflation, and unemployment are ‘lagging indicators’ that show what happened in the recent past while consumer outlook is a ‘leading indicator looking at what’s possibly ahead.
“If we can see what consumers are thinking, their attitude, whether they’re optimistic or pessimistic, that will determine how much they’re going to be spending. That is a leading indicator, which could tell us what might happen in the future in the economy,” said Graeff. “Because, if they’re feeling good, they’re going to spend more which grows the economy. If they’re feeling more pessimistic, they’re gonna cut back their spending, which slows down the economy. Because two-thirds of the economy’s consumer spending.”
He explained that the lower consumer outlook does not reflect what’s happening with Tennessee’s economy.
“The economy is still healthy,” he said. “There’s still a lot of structural components of economy that are very solid and very healthy.”