Economic optimism held steady in October, with 46% of gas consumers saying that they were optimistic about the economy, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Survey. A majority of consumers ages 18-34 (53%) say that they are optimistic about the economy.
While optimism remained essentially unchanged from 47% in September, it is significantly higher than a year ago when concerns over the government shutdown sent optimism plummeting to 35%, the lowest level recorded since January 2013 when the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) introduced its monthly according to gauge consumer sentiment.
One of the major reasons for high optimism is falling gas prices. More than four in 10 consumers (44%) say that they have noticed that prices are lower over the past 30 days, the highest percentage this year and significantly higher than both September (25%) and August (33%), when prices also fell. An overwhelming percentage of consumers (85%) continue to say that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy, and consumers ages 18-34 are even more (87%) affected by gas prices.
Gas prices clearly affect consumer sentiment, but the findings are mixed on if they will affect consumer spending this month. Only 15% of consumers say that they will spend more this month than last month (excluding gasoline), while 25% say that they will spend less. Even younger consumers say they may pull back on spending; 25% of consumers ages18-34 say that they will be spending more over the next 30 days, a decrease from the 38% who said so last month.
Meanwhile, falling gas prices may lead to younger consumers taking more trips. One in three (34%) consumers ages 18-34 say that they will drive more over the next 30 days, almost double the 19% of all consumers so say that they will drive more over the next 30 days.
NACS, which represents the convenience store industry that sells 80% of the gas sold in the country, conducts the monthly consumer sentiment survey to gauge how gas prices affect broader economic trends. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates LLC; 1,110 gas consumers were surveyed Oct. 1-3, 2014.