From the Asbury Park Press:
Half of New Jersey consumers expect their household will do the same or worse financially compared with last year, and state residents are nearly as bearish about business conditions this year, a survey finds.
The fifth annual poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Silbermann College of Business finds 47 percent expect business conditions to get worse or stay the same, while only 37 percent expect conditions to improve. The remaining 16 percent were uncertain.
A year ago, 40 percent expected business conditions to get worse or stay the same over the coming 12 months, while 43 percent expected them to improve.
In one of the biggest shifts from last year’s survey, 24 percent said business conditions in the Garden State are better than a year ago, compared with 33 percent in 2006. Meanwhile, 60 percent said business conditions are worse or the same compared with a year ago, up from 52 percent the year before.
James Almeida, associate dean of the business school, attributed the pessimism about business conditions to a slew of factors: increasing concerns about the economic impact of the Iraq war, slow job growth in New Jersey, an expected decline in the real estate market, more people knowing someone who lost a job last year and more having increased their credit-card debt.
“My sense is it is turning into a sort of economic uncertainty,” he said.
The survey found 38 percent thought housing prices in their neighborhoods would go down this year, 35 percent had relatives or close friends lose their jobs last year, and 24 percent increased the balances on their credit cards, even though only 6 percent surveyed the year before said they expected to have to do that. That might explain why, on the question of what people would do if they suddenly received an extra $1,000, 41 percent said they would use it to pay bills, compared with 34 percent last year.
Meanwhile, 42 percent said they expect their family finances to be better this year, the same percentage as a year ago; 22 percent said they expect their finances to be the same this year, compared with 18 percent in the prior survey. Twenty-seven percent saw their financial situation getting worse, with about 10 percent unsure.
The poll found more than two-thirds of those surveyed expect to go away on a vacation of one week or longer, and about one in four respondents expect to make a home improvement of $1,000 or more or make investments outside their pension or 401(k) plan. Only one in five expects to get a new car or buy a computer.