The Nova Scotia Business Journal

HALIFAX - Atlantic Canadians are still willing to make big purchases even in uncertain economic times. A consumer confidence survey shows Atlantic Canadians are more optimistic than the rest of the country. Consumer confidence levels in the country are at a decade low.

These kinds of numbers haven't been seen since the recession in the early 1990s.

"Right now we're at a level that's quite similar to the one we saw in the early '90s, in fact we're within a per cent or two either way," said Todd Crawford, economist at the Conference Board of Canada.

Ours is the only region showing a slight increase in consumer confidence. The monthly survey asked four questions: Two related to the respondents' financial situation, one to future employment in the community, and if now is a good time to make a major purchase. "We see a lot of people in Atlantic Canada think things will stay the same six months from now, so they don't see things getting worse."

This region typically answers these questions differently than the rest of the country, Crawford said. And Atlantic Canada hasn't been hit as hard as Ontario in the manufacturing sector, or as hard as western provinces with commodity prices.

"Obviously Atlantic Canada has been struggling as well, but not to the degree where central Canada is, where confidence is at extremely low levels."

Low confidence levels aren't an indicator of recession, but it shows the economy is struggling. Crawford said it means this is something that needs to be watched carefully, especially if it continues to dip.

"One positive thing is people seem to think that now is a better time to make a major purchase than the same time last month. Heading into the retail holiday season, that seems to be some good news." - Metro Halifax