ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – Roanoke College has conducted a poll that indicates COVID-19 is still weighing on consumer confidence.
The Virginia Index of Consumer Sentiment is unchanged over the last quarter and remains well under the pre-COVID-19 levels, and 10 points below the historical average.
The May 2021 value is 82.7 which is up only 0.3 points since February.
Although the measure rebounded slightly over the summer of 2020, COVID frustrations and concerns about rising prices weigh on consumers in the Commonwealth.
The poll shows that consumer sentiment stalled over the last quarter as concerns about the current economy – including uncertainty relating to COVID-19 and rising prices, weigh on consumers.
A total of 22-percent of respondents report their household finances are worse today than they were one year ago, compared to 27-percent who say they have improved over the same period.
The poll indicates that Virginians who were surveyed are far more concerned about the current economy as measured by the Index of Current Conditions (ICC).
The VA ICC is 77.6 – about 12 points below the national value and two points below the Virginia February 2021 value.
However, those who participated in the poll say they are optimistic about the future of the economy – a contrast on national numbers.
Virginians anticipate an increase in overall prices this year and beyond.
Participants indicated that the rapidly rising price of gas associated with the recent cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline likely fueled consumer price concerns.
“Consumer sentiment in the Commonwealth stalled over the second quarter of 2021. The economy is strengthening as businesses open up and restrictions are relaxed. The Virginia unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in April, down almost half a point since March. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 2,400, with the most significant gains in the trade and transportation and manufacturing sectors. Virginians are optimistic about the future of the economy due to the strong underlying economic fundamentals. The primary drain on sentiment in May was the rapid increase in gas prices from the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, coupled with increased prices overall. The fuel price shock from the attack will lessen, although gas prices are often higher in the summer months due to increased travel. General prices will likely settle down by year’s end as the supply for goods and services catches demand.”Dr. Alice Louise Kassens, John S. Shannon Professor of Economics and Senior Analyst at the Roanoke College Institute for Policy and Opinion Research.