By Ashley Hupfl, Gannett Albany Bureau
ALBANY - State consumer sentiment fell sharply this month and is at the lowest level since Dec. 2011, according to a Siena Research Institute Poll released Friday.
The state consumer sentiment is released each month and measures people's willingness to spend as opposed to their ability to spend. The index is on a scale from 1 to 150 points, with 75 being the middle point for consumer sentiment.
In October, state consumer sentiment fell 6.6 points from last month to 69.6 points. The nation's consumer sentiment is 73.2 points. Upstate had a lower consumer sentiment then the whole state, at 65.2 points.
"The government shutdown threw consumer sentiment into reverse in October," Siena's director Doug Lonnstrom said in a statement. "Re-opening the government softened what could otherwise have been an all time one month drop in consumer sentiment. Nationally the index was down over four points and hit its lowest point in over a year while New York fell nearly seven points to a low we haven't seen since December of 2011."
The national unemployment rate in October rose to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent in September. The state's unemployment rate was higher at 7.6 percent in the state last report in August.
Siena reported that 42 percent of state residents said both gasoline and food prices are "having either a somewhat or very serious impact on their finances."
"Concern among New Yorkers over the bite that gasoline is taking out of their budget fell to its lowest point in three years. When last concern was this low, the price at the pump was well under $3," Lonnstrom said in a statement. "Another bright spot remains home buying plans. Down a little from last month, but at over 5 percent, home buying is the only major buying plan up from last year at this time."
In October, the state Association of Realtors released a statewide housing market report that showed the highest amount of closed and pending sales since 2006 in the third quarter of 2013.
The people with the highest consumer confidence were Democrats, people under the age of 55, and people with an income above $100,000. Republicans, upstate New York, and people aged 55 and older had the lowest consumer confidence.
Siena has released the consumer sentiment poll each month since Jan. 1999. It looks at consumer confidence in the state by region, age, income, gender, and party. The poll is conducted by telephone to 750 residents age 18 and above.