HELENA - Montanans continue to have a more cheery outlook about their economic well-being than the rest of the nation, according to results from the latest survey by Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
The sampling of state residents showed a five-point jump in the consumer sentiment index from December to March, Paul Polzin, director of the Missoula bureau, said Monday.
At the same time, the national index found a more modest improvement in consumers' attitudes, from 92.6 to 94.1.
Polzin said the numbers in the Montana survey confirm the growing strength of the state's economy that has been shown by job growth in recent months. After seeing almost no increase in jobs last summer, the employment picture has gradually improved to an annual rate of about 1 percent, he said.
The feelings of U.S. consumers as a whole have lagged behind that of Montanans largely because the rest of the country is not experiencing even the modest job growth seen here, Polzin added.
"I don't think that's going to last much longer," he said.
While jobs and income are important economic measuring tools, he said, "the real value of consumer sentiment indexes is that they provide an independent assessment of overall economic conditions."
The periodic survey of consumer views by the bureau uses the same five questions asked in the University of Michigan's monthly nationwide poll.
The survey asks consumers whether they consider themselves better off or worse off financially than a year ago and where they expect to be a year from now. They are asked to assess business conditions in the state during the next 12 months and the state's overall economic health for the next five years.
Lastly, those surveyed are asked whether they consider this a good time to buy major household items.
The random telephone poll of 402 Montana adults was conducted Match 9-21, and has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.
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