Connecticut consumers are the most optimistic about the state’s economy — and where it is headed — than they have been since early 2016, according to a new online survey conducted by the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC).

A survey of 505 residents conducted in late June found that 77 percent of respondents believe business conditions here are better than or the same as they were six months ago — the highest-rating the Rocky Hill-based, nonprofit economic think-tank has recorded since the first quarter of 2016.

And 76 percent of participants said they expect conditions will be better, or at least the same, six months from now. That’s 9 percentage points higher than the respondents who chose the optimistic answer one year ago.

The survey was conducted by InformCT, a public-private partnership within CERC that makes research data available to the public.

“This increase in consumer confidence is an encouraging affirmation that our efforts are paying off,” said Chris McClure, spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget office. “This is a great state. It is a tremendous place to start and raise a family, to put your ideas to the test by opening up a small business or to run a major operation like the 17 Fortune 500 companies headquartered here, and to advance a career within one of the various cutting-edge companies located within our borders. The residents of our state are not going to be fooled by downbeat rhetoric when they know the economy has improved and they see more companies moving here.”

The survey also found 55 percent of respondents described Connecticut as a good place to live and raise a family, up from 49 percent who indicated so in the first-quarter of 2018.

When it comes to employment, 23 percent of respondents believe “there are plenty of jobs for anyone who wants one,” the highest percentage to do so since 2015.

Another 54 percent said “there are some jobs but not enough,” while 23 percent said “jobs are very hard to get.”

But two economists urged caution about the poll’s findings.

Don Klepper-Smith of DataCore Partners, who was chief economic advisor under former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, said consumer confidence in Connecticut is still growing more slowly than in New England as a whole.

The broadest measure of consumer spending power — income after taxes adjusted for inflation — was down last year and is likely to be flat in 2018, Klepper-Smith added.

“It’s a relative concept. We’re stepping up from where we were last year, … but everyone else is doing quite a bit better,” he said, adding Connecticut remains the only state that hasn’t recovered all jobs lost in the last recession.

Connecticut Business and Industry Association economist Peter Gioia noted that 43 percent of those surveyed still believe the economy is not going to get better in the coming months.

“I think the results are valuable. When consumers are confident, they spend money,” Gioia said, adding they are not surprising given the job growth Connecticut has enjoyed in 2018. “But that 43 percent sort of tempered the good stuff.”

The CBIA will release its business confidence survey in September. “The preliminary numbers show most companies are upbeat about themselves, but much less in terms of how they see Connecticut and the direction we’re headed.”

Other findings from the latest survey include:

  • 68 percent said they are likely to take a vacation outside of Connecticut during the next six months.
  • 18 percent said they are likely to refinance their home or buy a new one.
  • 30 percent said they are likely to buy a new car.
  • 40 percent said they are likely to make a major consumer expenditure, such as furniture.
  • 32 percent said they are better off than they were six months ago.
  • 40 percent said they are likely to move out of Connecticut in the next five years.
  • 34 percent said they are concerned that their job, or their spouse’s job, is in jeopardy.
  • And 22 percent said they will have enough money to retire comfortably.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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