"Consumers are concerned about the overall economy and recognize currently that it's languishing," said Timothy Graeff, director of the Office of Consumer Research at the school. "If their income is down and savings are down, they are going to pull back and stop spending."
Middle Tennessee's overall consumer confidence index dropped to 53 this month, down 30 points from December's rating, based on consumers' responses to questions about today's economy, expectations for the future and opinions on whether now is a good time to make big purchases.
The index is based on an 11-question survey of 455 adult residents in Davidson, Rutherford and Williamson counties, MTSU researchers said.
The survey generally is done five times a year. The latest poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday this week was the first one for 2010.
The results showed that area residents remain nervous about what's ahead economically.
Just ask Mike Parker, a 64-year-old former grocery executive who once earned a six-figure salary. After seven months of job searching, he now manages a Mapco gas station in Smyrna, earning a quarter of his past income.
"We have people come in every day looking for work," Parker said. "You don't see them hiring for good jobs. The only opportunities that exist tend to be at the very bottom of the scale."
Parker said he has adjusted spending to match what he earns. He hasn't taken a vacation, and instead of taking his wife to a steakhouse for Valentine's Day this weekend, the couple will dine at their daughter's house.
"Because of the length and depth of this recession, I don't think people in my age group are ever going to go back to spending like they did," Parker said.No signs of reversal
Confidence ratings in the MTSU survey had shown a steady increase for part of last year through September, when the index stood at a 142 score.(2 of 2)
Real Estate Outlook: Strong Sales PredictedNashville area consumer confidence continues to decline