Poll finds N.H. residents regain economic optimism

Granite State residents may still feel pessimistic about the national economy, but they now feel as optimistic about the state’s economy as they did before the recession hit.That’s according to a statewide survey – sponsored by the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire and conducted by the UNH Survey Center – that polled 520 randomly selected Granite Staters on their sentiments toward both the state and national business climate.Optimism about the short-term future of New Hampshire’s economy is now at its highest level since September 2007, the survey found. Over the next year, 44 percent of respondents think local businesses will enjoy good times financially, while 28 percent each foresee either bad times or mixed conditions.Compare that to Feb. 2009, when a mere 13 percent of Granite Staters expected a good business climate in the year ahead and 71 anticipated bad times.Even though a plurality express optimism about the state’s economy, New Hampshire citizens still report being worse off financially now than they were a year ago. When asked about the financial condition of their household, nearly half – 48 percent – of respondents say they are worse off now than they were a year ago. Thirty percent report being about the same and only 22 percent say they are better off now than they were last year.In what is a good sign for the state’s economic future — and certainly for retailer — 45 percent say now is a good time to purchase major household items.”These sentiments are reflective of New Hampshire’s resilience and strong economic position going into the recession,” said BIA President Jim Roche. “Granite Staters view New Hampshire businesses as being well-positioned to grow after a difficult period of reduced activity and cost-cutting measures, including layoffs.”However, what’s good news for the state doesn’t carry over into the national picture. Only one-third of those surveyed think the country will do well financially over the next year, with 42 percent predicting bad times and 23 percent expecting mixed conditions. This is still a significant improvement from Feb. 2009, when 81 percent of respondents foresaw poor financial conditions for the country.Respondents also were concerned about the U.S. economy in the long term. Only a quarter said they believe the country will enjoy continuous good times over the next five years, while 29 percent anticipate mixed conditions and 47 percent expect bad times.The survey also reported that optimism and pessimism about the economy follows party lines. In recent years, Republicans and conservatives were consistently more optimistic about current and future economic conditions, while Democrats and liberals are now consistently more optimistic, the survey found. – KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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