If plans for Atlantic City getaways and long vacations are any indication, New Jersey consumers appear to be slowly regaining confidence, according to an annual report being released today. The New Jersey Consumer Intentions index, which measures consumer confidence based on expected purchases, rose to 42, up from 39 a year ago, according to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll. The poll found more New Jerseyans plan to visit Atlantic City, take a vacation for a week or longer, and buy or build a home. However, fewer residents plan to buy or lease a car, purchase a new computer or buy a major home appliance.
Overall, the results show Garden State residents are returning to optimism, said Peter Woolley, director of the poll. Nearly six in 10 respondents said they think business conditions will improve this year, up from four in 10 a year ago.
Plans for discretionary purchases like vacations also indicate consumers are feeling more relaxed about their personal finances, he said.
“When you let your belt down a little bit, the first thing that’s going to come back is some fun,” he said.
Woolley cautioned, however, that consumer optimism “always runs a little bit ahead of reality.” “There’s still some anxiety out there,” he said.
For example, 67 percent of New Jerseyans reported either they or a relative had lost a job, up from last year’s 54 percent. One-third of respondents said they were worried about losing their job, and another one-third said they were having a difficult time making credit card payments.
In addition, 70 percent said the credit crisis had affected their financial well-being, up from 62 percent last year. The uptick was probably the result of a delayed reaction among consumers, Woolley said.
“For some people, the realization sets in slowly,” he said. “They may think they’re insulated until a couple quarters of looking at their retirement or bank statements.”
The study, which has been conducted since 2003, polled 886 randomly-selected residents by phone during the first two weeks of January. Star Ledger.