Massachusetts young people have a positive economic outlook according to a recent poll

Sean R. Wandrei

07/29/11 Holyoke - Republican Photo by Mark M.Murray - Sean R. Wandrei, a member of the young professionals society, shown here at his office at Meyers Brothers Kalicka in Holyoke.

SPRINGFIELD – Call it youthful exuberance or just plain old American pluck, Massachusetts young people are convinced that good times are right around the corner, according to survey results compiled by the MassINC polling group.

Forty percent of people ages 18 to 29 told pollsters that the next five years would bring “good times.” That’s compared with just 24 percent of their 30- to 44-year-old counterparts, 33 percent of those ages 45 to 59 and 31 percent of those age 60 plus.

Of course, 42 percent of those ages 18 to 29 predicted “widespread unemployment or depression.”

But that was the lowest percentage of any age group to take that dystopian an outlook.

Sixty-three percent of those ages 30 to 44 said there would be widespread unemployment, 55 percent of those ages 45 to 59 and 56 percent of those 60 plus took that negative view. The others either said they didn’t know or picked “mixed.”

When asked about business conditions In just the next year, 48 percent of those 18 to 29 said “good times” compared with 32 percent of those 30 to 44 years old, 33 percent of those 45 to 59 years old and just 28 percent of those 60 plus.

Boston-based MassINC, or Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, does a statewide phone survey on economic issues every three months. This one, conducted back in April, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

“Overall it is just interesting to see that young people are feeling more optimistic than their older counterparts,” said Steven M. Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group. “They are coming out into a job market that is not welcoming them with open arms.”

A possible explanation is that the eldest person in that age demographic was just 19 years old when the terrorist attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. That means they have come of age in a much more uncertain world both economically and politically.

“There were some good years in there, but pretty much all they’ve known were bad times and they have made the best of it,” Koczela said.

He said the trend is important for the state because optimistic young people are the ones who will start new businesses and help grow the state’s economy.

At 37, Sean R. Wandrei is out of MassINC’s “young people” demographic. But he is the treasurer of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield and he sees the optimism among young entrepreneurs every time the chapter’s hosts a get together.

“I really think there is this feeling out there that things are getting better,” he said. “And that’s what Young Professionals is for, to get younger people excited about the Pioneer Valley.”

A certified public accountant at Meyers Brothers Kalicka in Holyoke, Wandrei said he’s seen companies close or merge. But the ones that have survived the downturn thus far will likely stay in business.

“I don’t want to say thrive,” he said. “But they will be here in the future.”

But then, Wandrei looks at unemployment stats that have remained persistently high. Springfield’s unemployment was 12 percent June. That’s compared with 8.9 percent for Springfield and its surrounding towns included. Statewide unemployment was 7.8 percent in June, up from 7.4 percent in May. The national average, which is also seasonally adjusted, was 9.2 percent for June.

“You look at that and wonder if it is false optimism,” Wandrei said.

The MassINC poll also found that Western and Central Massachusetts residents were less optimistic about the economy regardless of age when compared with people who live in other regions of Massachusetts.

Only 22 percent of the Western and Central Massachusetts residents polled about the economy in five years said “good times” versus 23 percent for Southeast Massachusetts, 38 percent for the outer Boston suburbs and 37 percent for Boston and its inner suburbs.