America’s West North Central region has scored the biggest gains in consumer confidence over the last year, according to an analysis released today by The Conference Board.

The Conference Board’s widely watched Consumer Confidence Index for this region – which includes Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas – has climbed from 63.6 to 99.8 over the last year (from April 2003 to April 2004), a more than 50 percent increase.

“The solid gains in the Plains States reverse the old gravity rule that says that whatever goes up must come down,” said Conference Board Senior Economist Ken Goldstein. “These West North Central states have been dealing with a double whammy for a long time. The three-year nightmare in manufacturing conditions hit this region hard and was accompanied by depressed commodity prices. Now, commodity prices are starting to recover and the manufacturing sector is no longer in free fall. Most importantly, consumers in this region are finally feeling more confident about the economy.”

Also showing strong gains in consumer confidence over the last year are states in the Middle Atlantic, New England and Pacific regions.

The Middle Atlantic region – which includes New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – climbed from 68.2 to 85.8 in the last year. In New England – which includes Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont – consumer confidence rose from 66.4 to 81.4. The Pacific region, including Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Hawaii, rose from 75.9 to 91.5.

Help-Wanted Advertising has been flat over the past year for most of the country. Of the nine U.S. regions, the Rocky Mountain region showed the largest increase. In this region – which includes Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Nevada – the help-wanted advertising index increased from 67 to 76 in the past year.

In contrast, consumer confidence has been weakest in the East South Central region, which includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. Although consumer confidence advanced over the last year, the gains have been the smallest of all nine U.S. regions. Here, consumer confidence only increased 1.3 points from a year ago. Help-wanted advertising in this region declined from 78 to 76 during this period.

The Conference Board is a not-for-profit organization that examines major issues having an impact on business and society.

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