Floridians' gloomy future outlook keeps consumer sentiment flat

February 26, 2016
Colleen Porter

Despite recent good news in the national economy, Floridians’ expectations about personal finances in the coming year were pessimistic, especially among women and people 60 and older, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

Consumer sentiment among Floridians fell slightly in February to 91.5—down almost one point from January’s revised reading of 92.4.

Among the five components that make up the index, three increased and two declined.

Perceptions of personal financial situation now compared with a year ago rose a point, from 83.4 to 84.4, while perceptions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big ticket item, such as a car, went up one-tenth of a point to 101.2.

“These two components reflect the current conditions among Floridians and show an important improvement compared with January 2016 and compared with February of last year, as the overall economic conditions in Florida improved during 2015,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Anticipation of U.S. economic conditions over the next year rose 1.3 points to 86.3. However, optimism did not hold for the long run, as views of the U.S. economy over the next five years fell almost a point, down to 87.5.

Expectations of personal finances a year from now show the greatest decline in this month’s reading, dropping from 104 to 98. This was 6 points lower than last month and 3.2 points lower than February last year.

“Altogether, these three components reflect that, among Floridians, future expectations about the economy are not very favorable, despite the positive economic trends observed in the recent past,” Sandoval said. 

This declining optimism on future personal financial situations was the main force behind this month’s overall dip in Florida’s consumer sentiment index. While negative views were shared by the entire Florida population, the steepest decline in the expectations of personal finances a year from now were experienced by women, followed by those with incomes under $50,000 and those age 60 and over.  

For those age 60 and over, expectations about personal finances and U.S. short- and long-run economic conditions have trended downward over the last 12 months. Seniors’ expectations of personal finances in the next year declined more than any other group over the same period. This month’s reading was 74.2 for those age 60 or older, compared with 107.3 for those under 60.

Economic conditions in Florida continue to be very favorable in general. Florida’s housing market for 2015 showed higher median prices and an increase in home sales and listings, according to Florida Realtors. Florida’s labor market has been adding jobs in recent months. Gov. Rick Scott recently announced that the state set another record in tourism in 2015, with more than 105 million visitors.

“These economic trends are expected to continue in the following months, and consumer sentiment might bolster up as household income and wealth improve with the labor and housing market conditions,” Sandoval said.

Conducted Feb. 1-21, the UF study reflects the responses of 453 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing 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 this month’s survey can be found at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/csi-data.

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