Florida consumer sentiment up slightly in time for holiday shopping

November 23, 2016
Colleen Porter
BEBR

Consumer sentiment among Floridians increased slightly in November to 90.2, up four-tenths of a point from October’s revised figure of 89.8, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

This is the first reading after the national presidential election. Because the survey procedures attempt to spread out the interviews over every day of the month, around 40 percent were completed before the presidential election was decided, and 60 percent afterward.

“Consumer sentiment in Florida remained stable throughout the presidential election process. Over the past year, consumer sentiment has fluctuated between a low of 88.1 and a high of 94.1, averaging 91.1 points,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

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

Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the greatest decrease this month, dropping 4.1 points from 84.8 to 80.7. The downturn is shared by all Floridians with the exception of those with incomes above $50,000.

Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item such as an appliance rose 2.5 points, from 90.3 to 92.8.

“As the election approached, this component had experienced a significant decline as a result of the uncertainty, but November’s reading shows an important recovery, just in time for the holiday season,” Sandoval said.

Expectations of personal finances a year from now rose 3.4 points from 98 to 101.4.

Views of the future of the U.S. economy were mixed:  Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year increased 2.9 points from 85.3 to 88.2, while anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next five years dropped 2.5 points from 90.6 to 88.1.

“Economic indicators in Florida have remained generally positive, helping to maintain overall high consumer sentiment without major fluctuations over the last two years despite the election,” Sandoval said.

The unemployment rate in Florida went up one-tenth of a point to 4.8 percent in October after remaining flat at 4.7 percent for five consecutive months. Nonetheless, job gains have been solid for the past six years. The number of jobs added statewide increased by 3.1 percent compared with last October. Furthermore, record numbers of tourists continue visiting Florida, with an increase of 5.1 percent over the year as of the third quarter of 2016.

The increase in consumer sentiment coincides with the holiday shopping season, suggesting positive growth in holiday sales this year. According to the Florida Retail Federation, “The upcoming shopping season looks very bright for Florida’s retailers, thanks to the strength of the state’s economy and increased confidence among consumers.”

The new year is harder to predict because of the upcoming change in government.

“Consumer sentiment readings and the performance of the stock market during the presidential transition period will be important to gauge consumer and investor confidence in the economy during the upcoming administration,” Sandoval said.

Conducted Nov. 1 – 20, the UF study reflects the responses of 504 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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