January 11, 2016 11:22 am

Consumer confidence is surprisingly high — but falling: poll

Consumer confidence took a hit in December, a new poll shows.

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Fresh poll numbers out Monday show consumer confidence remains relatively high in the face of economic headwinds.

Worries are building though as a prolonged slide in commodity prices enters its “second round,” seemingly spilling over into an array of sectors and industries outside of oil and gas.

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The Conference Board of Canada’s monthly poll shows confidence among households dropping to its lowest level in two years, with “pessimism in December spread across all regions,” the Ottawa-based researcher said in a statement.

Sentiments for both future financial prospects and jobs took the biggest hits, with the number of respondents who said they expect employment in their region as well as their own financial situation to improve over the next six months dropping respectively.

MORE: Oil slump enters ‘second round’ as pinch spreads far beyond oil patch

The number of respondents who said they expect their financial position to improve through the summer dropped to 20 per cent; while those who said they expect fewer jobs in their area when June rolls around jumped nearly six full percentage points, to 34.5 per cent.

Perhaps not surprisingly, declines were sharpest in Alberta, according to the Conference Board poll, which was conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 10. Oil prices during that time continued to fall, moving from over $40 to just above $35 a barrel (U.S.).

consumer-confidence

Moving back

Oil’s drop is redrawing the economic map of Canada, experts suggest, with workers from all areas of the country who moved to Alberta to fill jobs in recent years now seeking out work elsewhere amid layoffs and hiring freezes.

Job numbers out from Statistics Canada Friday were surprisingly upbeat on the surface, with the economy pumping out a resilient 22,800 net new positions last month despite a deepening shock from crumbling oil and commodity prices.

MORE: Job seekers are flocking to Ontario and B.C. again for work

Beneath the surface though there is significant regional variance, with trends that have persisted through all of last year deepening in the final month of 2015 – namely, that it’s not just jobs that are disappearing from Alberta and other regions hit by the slump. People are, too.

“You’re seeing migration flows pretty much stall to cities like Calgary, and population growth picking up in places like Toronto and Vancouver,” Robert Kavcic, an economist at Bank of Montreal, said.

“What you’re seeing is people moving back from Alberta,” Kavcic said.
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