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Consumer confidence: Pacific states feel worst about the current economy

December 29, 2010 | 10:18 am

The Conference Board's latest report on U.S. consumer confidence showed an overall decline in Americans' mood in December.

And no other U.S. region comes close to feeling as bad about the current economy as the Pacific states of California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska.

The Conference Board each month calculates regional confidence indexes based on how consumers rate 1) their present situations and 2) their expectations for the next six months.

Pacmap Nationwide, the present-situation index fell to 23.5 in December, from 25.4 in November. The index, with a base of 100 in 1985, was at 114.3 as 2008 began, then crashed as the recession raged. It has been mired between 20 and 30 since the beginning of 2009, a sign of many Americans’ disbelief that the economy has improved.

That disbelief is particularly intense in the Pacific-region states, of which California of course is the biggest economy: The present-situation index for the region came in at just 9.8 in December, a record low reached just once before (in July 2009) and down from 17.6 in November. It was 15.3 a year ago.

"California dominates this region, and the employment and housing situations have contributed to a lack of confidence," said Lynn Franco, director of research at the Conference Board.

Among the nine U.S. regions in the board's report, the next-most-depressed present-situation index for December was registered by the East North Central region (the Great Lakes states), at 15.2.

The people who feel the best about their current situation live in the West South Central region (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana). Their present-situation index came in at 55.4 for December, double the national average.

The good news, such as it is, in the board's report: The expectations index for the country as a whole, at 71.9 for December, remains well above the present-situation index. The expectations index was down modestly from 73.6 in November.

Just 12.1% of people surveyed for the board's confidence report nationwide expect business conditions to worsen in the next six months, while 16.6% expect conditions to improve and 71.3% expect no change.

The Pacific region's expectations index came in at 67.3 for December, which was down from 75.3 in November but still was fourth-highest of the nine regions.

With the current mood so grim in California, maybe it's a case of people not wanting to believe things could actually get worse.

-- Tom Petruno