CINCINNATI (AP) — With Ohio consumer confidence continuing to soar, economic forecasters said Monday they expect Ohio shoppers to increase holiday spending by 3.2 percent over last year.

The state is also seeing continued growth in jobs, wages, housing prices and other key indicators, forecasters said as they projected retail spending to climb to nearly $24.9 billion. The annual forecast ahead of Black Friday and the December holiday season comes from the University of Cincinnati Economics Center. It’s in conjunction with the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and its research arm Focus on Ohio’s Future .

“The consumer confidence index … has really shown no signs in recent months of slowing down its growth,” said David Weiss, a UC economic researcher. He said even if it does start leveling off, “it remains very high relative to the last few years.”

The forecast utilizes sales data, employment and wage figures, and a variety of other economic indicators. Inflation remains low and household debt is shrinking, the study states.

“Our projection for the state is more modest than that of national forecasts for the U.S. as a whole,” Weiss said, saying national forecasts have ranged up to 5.5 percent. But he said one possible explanation is that Ohio’s 7.4 percent jump in 2016 more than doubled the national increase, so there has been an adjustment in the years since. He said another reason could be that the Ohio forecast includes January 2019, while some national forecasts don’t.

More than half of the state’s spending will come in the Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus metro areas, with Cleveland sales growth leading those three areas with a projected 3.8 percent.

Mansfield should rise nearly 8 percent, but that central Ohio area had previously been lagging behind. All Ohio metro areas are projected to have positive growth with the Toledo area is expected to grow 4.6 percent, and Dayton and Youngstown at 3 percent each, Cincinnati and Columbus at 1.9 percent each, Lima at 1.1 percent and Akron at 0.8 percent.

The researchers say online and mobile shopping continues to greatly outpace traditional store sales.

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By Dan Sewell

Associated Press