Consumer Confidence Rises in DC

   Washington Business Journal
   by Tierney Plumb
   A scientifically selected sample of more than 1,200 local consumers were surveyed in    late April.

   The Board of Trade's index, which moved from 49 in December to 56 in April, measures    consumer perceptions of the economic situation now and their perceptions of where    things are headed in the    next six months.

   D.C. and Maryland counties experienced the biggest rise in consumer confidence since    December, up eight points, followed by counties in Northern Virginia, up three points.

   The index is highest in D.C. (59), second highest in Northern Virginia (56) and lowest in    suburban Maryland (54).

   "The employment situation is still tough for many area consumers," said Jim Dinegar,    president  and CEO of the Board of Trade. "It is still hard for many residents to find jobs    and meet their economic needs, but it  is very encouraging to see consumer confidence    rising. It is also good to see that  expectations for the future are considerably more    positive than they were in December."

   Unemployment in the D.C. area dropped slightly in March, inching down to 5.9 percent,    but still way up from 3.3 percent in March 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor    Statistics.

   Other key findings from the survey:

.  Expectations for the future are much higher (72) than perceptions of where things are    now, at 39.

.  Area consumers between the ages of 30 and 49 have the highest level of overall    consumer confidence (58) and consumers 18 to 29 have the lowest (51).

.  Positive perceptions of the area's economy (41 percent) are over three times greater than    positive perceptions of the national economy (14 percent).

.  Nearly four out of every five workers in the region expects their employment to continue    during the next six months "as it is now." Additionally, 15 percent expect to receive    promotions.

.  Despite the past six months of economic turbulence, 43 percent say their salaries were    either increased or supplemented by bonuses or added benefits. Only 13 percent of    respondents said their salaries decreased.

.  The ends of the income spectrum - those making under $50,000 and those over    $150,000 - took the biggest salary hits. Each group said their salaries decreased 17    percent, compared to 12 percent of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 and    10 percent of those making between $100,000 and $150,000.