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CALIFORNIA: News and Insight on Business in the Golden

Consumer Confidence in O.C. Highest Since 1986


With Orange County's business engine running in high gear, local consumers are more optimistic about the economy than they've been in more than a decade, according to a survey released Monday.

The county's consumer confidence index jumped 9 points over last year to 110--the highest level since UC Irvine began conducting the annual survey in 1986.

The Orange County index also surpassed a nationwide measure of consumer sentiment by 3 points--the second year in a row the county response was higher.

Nearly three-quarters of Orange County residents surveyed said they expect the U.S. economy to perform well in the coming year, while only 16% predict bad times ahead. It was the most positive reading of the national economy in the local poll's history.

"These ratings are incredible," said Mark Baldassare, the UCI professor who conducted the survey. "This is a significant surge . . . that shows we are on a very positive track right now in Orange County."

However, the poll also found that county residents, especially those with lower incomes, are somewhat less optimistic about their personal finances than about the economy as a whole.

The random-sample poll of 1,002 adults, conducted by phone Sept. 4 to 14, for the first time isolated the responses of Latino residents. It found that as a group, Latinos are upbeat about the business climate.

The consumer confidence index was significantly higher for those in upper-income brackets--those with annual household income of $80,000 or more.

The discrepancy is notable, Baldassare said, because it probably underscores the division between those who derive much of their wealth from the stock market and other investments and those who depend on a weekly paycheck.

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