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Consumer confidence slides again

Jamaica Gleaner / Business confidence remains at its highest level in a year, but consumer confidence flattened amid worsening job prospects and fears of crime, according to the fourth-quarter 2017 survey, polled by Don Anderson.

Business confidence hit 142.6 points in the fourth quarter compared to 135.2 points in the third quarter 2017 and 142 points in fourth quarter 2016.

Consumer confidence, however, ebbed further to 148 points from 151.1 points in the third quarter and 151.6 points recorded a year ago.

Despite the general flattening, business confidence still trends near record levels, but consumer confidence is nearly eight points off its 2016 high.

The Survey of Consumer and Business Confidence is published by the Jamaica Conference Board, an affiliate of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce. Anderson, the managing director of Market Research Services, conducts the quarterly surveys.

Anderson expects the increased bloodletting in the new year to have an impact on survey results in upcoming quarters.

“One of the key factors is obviously the state of crime in the country,” he said at the presentation of the fourth quarter survey results on Tuesday.

Anderson recalled that there was some optimism among business persons when the crime fighting strategy involving the zones of special operations – ZOSO – was introduced last year. He added that the perceptions of the negative impact of on crime on the economy fell by four or five percentage points at the time.

“So they felt that the crime measures would make a difference to the outlook,” he said.

But with 61 murders in the first 12 days of this year, those gains will be tested, the pollster commented.

“So with the resurgence or growing levels of crime for the first two weeks of this year we are left to speculate on how they feel about the impact on crime. So there is the potential for downturn,” he said, adding that crime and violence is still seen as the number one problem facing the country.

The fourth quarter however registered some positives in that the subindex for business expectations was the highest recorded in the history of the surveys at 135 points.

Regarding consumer confidence, three in four respondents rated current conditions in the economy as good or average in each of the past seven quarters.

But as to their outlook on the prospects ahead, while one-third of the respondents had a positive expectations for an improved economy, just as many of them expected economic conditions to worsen.

Their pessimism comes despite a steady downward trend in the unemployment rate in the past two years to 11.3 per cent in the last survey for July 2017.

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