New Poll: New Yorkers optimistic about economy

By Matt Porter

June 5, 2013 Updated Jun 6, 2013 at 12:20 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) For more than the past five years, getting a secure footing in the economy has been difficult for local contractors like Steve Frechette.

"It's been an up-and-down ride is what it's been like," Frechette said.

New numbers from Siena College show consumer confidence is rising in New York and is at its highest point since July 2008.

Frechette owns Southern Tier PermaSide, which helps homeowners fix and remodel their homes.

He said his business nearly dried up completely when the economy tanked in 2008.

"Try to find enough to keep eating, it was that bad." Frechette said.

Now he says he has more homeowners looking to remodel each year.

"I think the job market is more solid than it was over the last few years," he said, "So the fear factor is starting to slide away that they're going to lose their job and that kind of thing."

The Siena Poll shows investment in home improvement up to 17.6 percent, the highest it's been since May 2010.

Dr. Douglas Lonnstrom of the Siena Research Institute said that's a sign consumers are more willing to spend overall.

"Home is a big factor," Lonnstrom said. "It's generally their biggest investment."

Lonnstrom said rises in stock and home prices coupled with a better job market gave consumers more reasons to buy in May.

"If they see these things grow, they absolutely feel better, there's no question," he said.

However, New York is still lagging nearly 20 points behind the country in its confidence of the economy.

In an quarterly poll released in April, Binghamton's consumer sentiment is lower than the New York average.

Still, New York has crossed into a positive outlook of the economy for only the second time since the recession began.

While consumer confidence is high for now, experts say a rise in gas or food prices could crack fragile feelings.

Also, further government furloughs, layoffs or reductions as a result of sequestration could send confidence plummeting.

Frechette and his crew aren't taking anything for granted these days.

Having built up his business for 40 years, he knows the jobs can disappear as quickly as they came.

"It's not where it was in 2005," he said, "But we're working our way up"