Florida consumer sentiment in March slides into two-month decline

April 3, 2018
Kelly Muzyczka

Consumer sentiment among Floridians fell 1.2 points in March to 97.1, from a revised figure of 98.3 in February. This is the second consecutive month with a decrease in consumer sentiment.

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

Perceptions of personal financial situations now compared with a year ago increased slightly, five-tenths of a point, from 90.8 to 91.3. Opinions as to whether this is a good time to buy a major household item increased 1.8 points, from 98.9 to 100.7. These two components represent opinions regarding current economic conditions among Floridians.

Expectations of personal finances a year from now declined eight-tenths of a point, from 105.9 to 105.1. Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year decreased 2.7 points, from 98.4 to 95.7. Finally, expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years showed the biggest drop from 97.3 to 92.9, falling 4.4 points. These three components represent expectations about future economic conditions.

“Most of the pessimism in March comes from the expectations about future economic conditions, particularly of those aged 60 and older,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Among those aged 60 and older, all five components of the index dropped. The two categories with the greatest declines are expectations of national economic conditions over the next one and five years. The component measuring whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket household item decreased the least, a change of 3.9 points.

“The proposed trade tariffs announced by the president in March may be one of the reasons behind these negative expectations about future economic conditions. Another influence may be the thought that at some point a recession will reoccur. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Great Recession’s recovery began 105 months ago, in June 2009. The length of time since the last recession could be on people’s minds and influencing their economic opinions,” Sandoval said. 

Economic activity expanded, and the unemployment rate in Florida remained unchanged at 3.9 percent in February, the lowest since the beginning of the last recession. Compared with last year, the number of jobs added statewide was 167,800, an increase of 2.0 percent. The industries that gained the most jobs over the past year were professional and business services, construction, and leisure and hospitality.

“The Florida economy keeps growing, and the labor market conditions continue to show a positive economic outlook with more jobs added every month; however, expectations of future economic conditions might indicate that Floridians are anticipating, sooner or later, a change in this trend,” Sandoval said.

Conducted Mar. 1-31, the UF study reflects the responses of 394 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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