Lancaster County consumers felt a little less confident in November but remained much more optimistic than consumers nationwide, according to the monthly Consumer Sentiment Index.
The Lancaster County score slid to 86.4 from October’s 92.6 -- a level so strong that it exceeded the nationwide pre-pandemic norm.
Still, despite its drop, the county index was more than 9 points better than the national measure of 76.9. That’s because the national score also dipped from October, when it was 81.2.
The local index was launched in April by the Center for Regional Analysis of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, in partnership with LNP | LancasterOnline, to track consumer confidence during the pandemic. The national index is prepared by the University of Michigan.
The new Consumer Sentiment Index score, announced Monday, comes with a pair of caveats, said center director Naomi Young.
The 729 usable responses were gathered from Nov. 1 through Nov. 7, meaning most replies came before the national election was called for former vice president Joe Biden shortly before noon on Nov. 7. In addition, COVID-19 is even more threatening now than it was at the start of November.
Taking a closer look at November’s lower score, Young explained that it was in part the result of “softened attitudes toward the general economy.” On the other hand, respondents showed improved confidence in their current and future personal finances.
November was the first month that more respondents said they were better off, compared to a year ago, than said they were worse off than a year earlier, Young pointed out.
Yet respondents’ confidence in the local economy drooped somewhat, creating another drag on the overall score.
The percentage of respondents expecting good times or somewhat good times over the next 12 months waned by 2 points to 23%. But the percentage expecting bad times or somewhat bad times rose by 3 points to 21%, Young said.
Many of the commenters pegged their belief to their preferred presidential candidate winning or losing. And the majority of those commenters were supporters of President Donald Trump, fitting for a county where he beat Biden by 16 percentage points.
“I am concerned that if Biden is elected, we will see an economic slowdown resulting from higher taxes and increased regulation,” wrote one commenter. “If Trump is elected, we will see a very good economy.”
Fear of COVID-19 was a factor for many of the residents who expect bad times or somewhat bad times, judging from the comments.
“Some businesses currently hanging on will not be able to sustain through another 12 months unless COVID is eradicated very quickly, which is unlikely,” a commenter wrote.