It's been a long time coming.
But Arizonans are starting to feel better about the economy, according to the latest state consumer confidence index.
The uptick in the numbers, the first all year, is more than just an abstract set of statistics. It also reflects that an increasing number of Arizonans say they're definitely or likely to make a major purchase in the next six months.
And if that holds, the index becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: The more people buy, the more people that retailers and manufacturers hire. And the more people hired - and spending money - further improves the economy.
The only question that remains is whether this is just a bubble or a real sign.
Pollster Earl de Berge noted that consumer confidence was up in September 2009 before sinking back again.
But this time, he thinks it's different. And that, de Berge said, is based on the fact that indicators across the board all are up, not just a few.
More of the 800 Arizona heads of household questioned for the survey think their current situation is better now than they did earlier this year.
And the number who believe things will be better for them six months from now is up sharply. That includes the fact that more people believe there will be more jobs available by next April than those who think the unemployment situation will get worse.
Dennis Hoffman of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, agreed that the latest numbers show things are going to get better. And he said the apparent optimism of Arizona consumers is going to lead the way.
"People aren't hiring now because they can't see orders coming in, they can't see people walking in their doors," Hoffman said. "I think it's very much psychological and very much confidence driven."
Hoffman figures there is "abundant cash and liquidity, at least for those gainfully employed," to spend. In fact, he estimated there is close to $10 billion of spending per year that could be taking place right now, based upon current employment and income.
"It's simply not taking place," he said.
He said people are hanging on to their money out of fear, whether of losing their jobs or the fact that their retirement accounts have taken a hit in the stock market.
Any improvement in confidence, he said, is key to recovery.
"I'm not saying we're going to go straight to the moon or anything like that," Hoffman said. "What we need is just a few months of positive news. And then it will begin to feed on itself a little bit."
One good sign in the latest survey, de Berge said, comes from a question he asked only those working in the private sector about what they hear or know about the plans of their own employer.
He said 36 percent said their companies appear to be growing strongly, with another 26 percent saying their firms are growing somewhat. Only 34 percent put their employers in the position of being either stagnant or struggling.
But de Berge said there's another side to that: Older Arizonans - those who are retired and not in personal touch with what is happening in the employment marketplace - are less confident about the future than the population in general. He said these retirees are "more dependent on what they hear in the media, which has been decidedly negative about the economy for quite some time."
That filtering of economic news, de Berge said, creates a disconnect.
"We've always felt that consumers were a better judge of what's happening in their own pocketbooks than economists or business editors," he said.
The survey of 800 adult heads of households, conducted earlier this month, has a 3.5 percentage point margin of error.
Consumer confidence index:
(1985 base = 100)
Source: Behavior Research Center
People definitely or planning a purchase in next six months:
|Type of item||10-Oct||10-Jul||10-Apr||10-Jan|
|New electronic entertainment or computer equipment over $500||19.40%||16.50%||15.20%||22.30%|
|Major home remodel/repair||17.30%||14.20%||15.00%||17.30%|
|New household furniture||16.90%||13.90%||13.80%||18.10%|
|Major kitchen appliance||14.20%||7.30%||8.50%||16.10%|
|New car or truck||11.80%||10.70%||10.20%||13.80%|
Source: Behavior Research Center
Survey based on interviews with 800 adult head of households statewide between Oct. 1 and 10, in both English and Spanish. Margin of error 3.5 percent.