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Trump bump? Why California consumers are so confident

By in Press Enterprise on November 29, 2017

By Jonathan Lansner

Despite all the partisan rancor about everything from economic policy to social norms to foreign relations, California shoppers are surprisingly upbeat on the economy one year after a presidential political shocker.

Let’s just say President Donald Trump wasn’t the first choice of an overwhelming slice of California voters in November 2016. Considering all the perceived risks his “America first” presidency could mean to California’s global-minded economy, it’s a tad against-the-grain that consumer confidence in the state — at least by one pollster’s math — is back at heights last seen during the boom of the previous decade.

What’s driving these good vibes of the past year, in the state and around the nation, is not primarily a reaction to a decent business climate. Rather it’s heightened hopes for better times ahead.

To see what’s making Californians optimistic, economically at least — and Americans as a group, too — my trusty spreadsheet was loaded with historical data from the Conference Board’s monthly consumer confidence poll. I looked at how optimism of the past three months compared with a year ago vs. average yearly movement of these indexes during President Barack Obama’s second term, four years that saw state and national economies finally shake off the Great Recession.

California confidence, by the Conference Board’s measurement, is up 20 percent in a year vs. 10-percent-a-year growth in Obama’s second term.

But look at the gap in views of today’s economy vs. the future.

Yes, Californians’ assessments of current conditions are up 18 percent in a year. But it grew 31 percent a year between 2012 and 2016. So, by this count, the state economy isn’t looking so hot … a sentiment backed by slower-growth figures found in many 2017 California business metrics.

Yet expectations of what the business climate will be, as measured by the confidence index, are up 23 […]    

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