Consumer Confidence at Its Highest in More Than a Year

But growth rates across North America are still expected to be less than 2% in 2012

Written by Rosalind Stefanac

Canadian consumers are at their most optimistic since July 2011, says the Conference Board of Canada’s September Index of Consumer Confidence report, but there are still plenty of reasons for business owners to remain cautious.

“We saw some changes in the Index that did come up, but they were coming up from pretty low levels,” says Todd Crawford, senior economist and author of the report. He says the results reflect a sense of nervousness in the Canadian economy and the likelihood that North America in general will see less than 2% growth this year.

The Index increased by 6.7 points over its level in August to reach 82.2%. It is based on a confidence level of 100% in 2002.

Employment is still a cause for concern for many, but the numbers showed improvement over last month. The share of respondents who said they expect more jobs in their communities within the next six months remained unchanged, but those who said they expect to see fewer jobs fell by 2.5 points to 21.5%.

Confidence on the major purchase question rose since last month, though negative responses still outweighed positive ones. The number of respondents who said they think now is a good time to make a major purchase, like a house or car, rose 1.7 percentage points to 42.9% and the share who said no fell 2.3 points.

British Columbia was the most confident region, at 110.8% and saw the largest increase, jumping by 24.7 points, with improvements across all four questions. For the first time since 2008, B.C. residents responded positively when asked if their current financial situation had improved, stayed the same or worsened over the last six months. The report urges caution on this point: “Given that it was negative for such a long time, this month’s return to positive territory could turn out to be an anomaly.”

The Prairies were the only region to show declining confidence in the September report, driven by disappointing results on the current finances and major purchase questions. Atlantic Canada’s 10.1 point increase to 73.4% offset August’s decline exactly. Quebec and Ontario saw gains of 7.8 and 3.6 points, respectively.

These latest results are based on 2,000 telephone interviews conducted in early September.

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