Sat | Jul 21, 2018

Business, consumer confidence steady - But pollster detects signs of restlessness over jobs

Published:Wednesday | July 11, 2018 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson/ Assistant Editor - Business
Managing Director of Market Research Services Don Anderson is flanked by President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Larry Watson and CEO of COK Sodality Credit Union Ambassador Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, as they discuss the 2018 2nd Quarter Business and Consumer Confidence Indices, at the release of the surveys on Tuesday, July 10.

Optimism among both businesses and consumers continued on an upward trajectory during the second quarter, although the majority is still waiting for economic gains to trickle down to them.

Moreover, consumers in particular do not believe the uptick in construction and other activities which should lead to job creation will redound to their benefit in any real way.

The business confidence index increased to 140.4 points during the second quarter, driven mainly by expectations of economic growth, which moved from 125.8 points to 132 points. Consumer confidence was also stronger in the second quarter survey, moving to 159.1 points from 154.6 in the first quarter.

Managing director of Market Research Services, Don Anderson, said businesses continued to be bullish on investment.

However, when the various indices which constitute the overall business confidence are examined, "it is clear that there has been a consistent volatility, reflecting a somewhat waffling position by businesses," said Anderson, in presenting the findings of the survey undertaken for the Jamaica Conference Board on Tuesday.

He said that while businesses clearly view the economic climate in a positive way "it is noticeable that the level of confidence they exude with regards to their own businesses and their profitability does not keep pace with the view of the economy."

That does not mean, however, that businesses have a negative view of their profitability. Instead, fewer expect a positive improvement in their firms' finances and those expecting positive changes in their profitability increase only marginally.

"Firms are saying therefore that while the economy appears to be in good shape generally they do not expect to see commensurate improvements in their business and only relatively few feel that profit will be better," Anderson said.

As for consumer sentiment, Anderson said they believe that current business conditions have improved and expect that this will positively impact job prospects.

 

CONSUMERS DOUBTFUL

 

"It is nonetheless important to note that while they feel there has been growth in the economy they do not feel it's trickling down to them," he said.

"We are not saying that consumers believe jobs are going to become available. They feel that much is happening around them but they themselves might not benefit," he added.

Consumers are also sceptical about their income increasing and are concerned about the level of unemployment, with some 37 per cent expecting that they may get a job in the foreseeable future.

"This expectation was explained by way of what they see around them and not necessarily what they were experiencing; by what they hear is happening rather than what they were experiencing," the pollster explained.

"Even though they see things happening, they don't believe it will redound to their benefit in any real way," he said, adding that consumers are becoming a little restless about job availability.

Chief Executive officer of COK Sodality and one time parliamentarian, Aloun Ndombet Assamba who was among the audience at the presentation of the Conference Board survey, admitting that "I am feeling really confused today," questioned where the survey was done in light of what she saw happening to people in rural Jamaica.

"I can't balance off the expectation with what is the reality," she said. "I really wonder if people are being honest when they respond to the questions that you've asked because on the one hand you hear that people are expecting jobs but they don't expect it's going to happen to them," she said.

"What's the sense of consumer confidence, of business confidence if it doesn't come down to the individual, if the individual doesn't have personal confidence or an expectation of a personal improvement in their situation?" she asked.

Referencing data Anderson presented that 58 per cent of Jamaicans are in the lower socioeconomic strata, Assamba said "I really don't understand the results."

Anderson said the sample used in the survey is nationally representative, incorporating 600 individuals from different socioeconomic groups across the country.

"I think it's very clear that they (consumers) are feeding into and mining information that is being disseminated. What they see around them, what they hear around them, but they aren't feeling it themselves," Anderson added.

"So the PR is working," commented Assamba. "Extremely well," Anderson responded.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com