Survey: Ohioans’ hope in economy lackluster

11/19/2013
BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A survey from a Columbus bank has found a majority of Ohioans believe their local real estate markets are improving, but their optimism for the economy as a whole is halfhearted.

Huntington Bank said 56 percent of Ohioans believe their local housing market is improving, up from 42 percent who held that belief last year. The bank said 45 percent of Ohioans expect the economy in their region to improve over the next year, unchanged from last year.

Michiganders were considerably more optimistic. Huntington said 67 percent see improvement in their local housing market, up from 50 percent last year. They also expect better things on the whole, with 60 percent saying they think the economy will improve in 2014, versus 48 percent who believed it would improve in 2013.

The findings, released Tuesday, are from Huntington’s second-annual Midwest Economic Index survey. The bank asked consumers in Ohio, Michigan, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and the Indianapolis metro area, a variety of questions aimed at gauging their spending plans and general optimism about the economy.

While plenty of people still doubt the recovery, the findings indicate more people are starting to believe things are getting better.

“This whole economic recovery has been generally gradual,” said George Mokrzan, Huntington's director of economics.

“In a sense, there are more and more people jumping on board every year that things are going to improve and things are looking better.”

But in northern Ohio, fewer people said they expect a better economy in the coming year.

While the percentage who say the real estate market is improving is nearly on par with the statewide average, just 43 percent say they expect 2014 to be better than 2013. In last year’s survey, 50 percent said they anticipated an improving economy in the coming year.

Consumers in northern Ohio also said they expect to spend less on vacations, make fewer home improvements, and spend less on holiday shopping.

Mr. Mokrzan said that could be because of the area’s sensitivity to manufacturing.

“If you look at some of the stats from last year, northern Ohio outperformed a lot of the other regions. It’s slowed down a little bit,” he said. “I think that’s primarily a function of manufacturing slowing down in the last year. Part of that was a general slowing of the world economy. Some of it was, I think, a natural slowdown after a very strong ramp-up after the economic expansion the first couple years.”

The bank found consumers in northern Ohio plan to spend, on average, $890 on holiday purchases. That’s down about 6 percent from last year, when consumers said they expected to spend $948. As a whole, Ohioans said they expected to spend $950 on holiday purchases, while Michiganders said they expected to spend $822. Both figures are down from last year.

“It indicates that consumers are paying attention to their budget. They’re going to spend what they can, on current consumption, what they have on current income. That’s basically prudence,” Mr. Mokrzan said. “That prudence is something we’ve seen a lot of in Ohio. Maybe a little bit of caution, a natural bit of caution.”

This year, the bank also asked people what kinds of stores they were most likely to do the bulk of their shopping. Superstores such as Walmart or Target look to get the most business, with 60 percent of Ohioans and 59 percent of Michiganders saying they will do most of their shopping there. Huntington said 18 percent of Michiganders and Ohioans said they’d primarily shop at locally owned small businesses.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.