Florida consumers' confidence jumps, UF survey finds

Published: July 31 2012

Category:Business, Florida, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumer confidence among Floridians rose in July by three points from the revised June figure to 76, which is nine points higher than this time last year, according to a monthly University of Florida survey.

“In July, consumers are feeling much better about their personal finances compared to June and their circumstances since the recession ended 2 ½ years ago,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Among the five components used to measure confidence, three showed an increase. Survey takers’ overall perceptions that they are better off financially today than a year ago rose five points to 66. “That’s the highest since the end of the Great Recession in December 2009,” McCarty said.

Expectations that their personal finances will improve by this time next year also went up by six points to 82. Finally, perceptions that now is a good time to buy big-ticket items, such as washing machines and dryers, rose seven points to 84.

In the bigger picture, though, sentiment seems to be less rosy.

“While consumers are more positive about their personal finances, they are gloomy about the U.S. economy over the next several years,” McCarty said.

According to the survey, respondents’ confidence in the U.S. economy during the coming year fell one point to 72. Their assessment about its performance during the next five years was even more downbeat with a drop of three points to 77.

Overall, though, Floridians across all age groups are moderately upbeat.

“Some of this can be attributed to a more positive housing picture in some areas of the state where prices are actually rising rather than falling,” McCarty said. The median price of a single-family home in Florida rose to $151,000 in June, an increase over the May figure of $147,000, largely because a high number of short sales on foreclosed properties and record low mortgage rates helped spur home sales.

Consumers also enjoyed declining gas prices over the past several months, although they crept back up 15 cents in July. In addition, “the stock market is up for the month and on its way to matching the post-recession high of 13,359 for the Dow Stock Market Index,” McCarty said.

Meanwhile, Florida’s 8.6 percent unemployment rate, which is only .four-tenths of a percent higher than the national figure, has remained unchanged since May. Though construction and government sectors lost workers, there was slight job growth in a variety of categories.

“There is some possibility of a recovery in some construction jobs as low interest rates are leading to some building,” McCarty said.

Despite these positive trends, Floridians remain jittery about the national economy.

“That opinion may be justified,” McCarty said, noting media reports of a potential federal budget crisis if expiring tax breaks and automatic spending cuts negotiated last August by Congress both take place in early 2013.

“Consumers should note that there is no easy fix to these problems and virtually every aspect of American society will be impacted if Congress doesn’t address them,” McCarty said.

Conducted July 12-26, the UF study reflects the responses of 411 individuals who represent a demographic cross-section of Florida.

The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2; the highest is 150.

Details of the July survey can be found at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/cci.


John Dunn, dunnj@embarqmail.com
Chris McCarty, ufchris@ufl.edu, 352-359-0974

Category:Business, Florida, Research