Florida consumer confidence unchanged, reflecting political divide

Published: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 11:36 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 11:36 a.m.

Florida’s consumer confidence was unchanged in December, reflecting the continuing divide between the mood of Republicans and Democrats following November’s election.

The survey by the University of Florida showed a confidence level of 74 for the second straight month following a post-recession high of 80 in September and October.

The index is benchmarked to a 1966 level of 100 and measures changes over time within a range of 2 and 150.

The December confidence level among Republicans was at 49 compared with 103 for Democrats, similar to November’s results.

The confidence level for people younger than 60 rose two points, while confidence for those age 60 and older fell one point. The difference by age was more pronounced for expectations about personal finances a year from now, said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Worry about the fiscal cliff dragged down expectations both about personal finances and the U.S. economy over the next year, though consumers were more optimistic about personal finances now compared with a year ago and the longer-term outlook for the U.S. Florida consumers also felt better about buying big-ticket items in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Several indicators point to a strong economic recovery, including rising home prices and a lower unemployment rate in Florida, declining gas prices and a resilient stock market -- all pointing to the possibility that state revenues might be higher. However, McCarty points out that the recovery will be jeopardized if Congress allows scheduled tax increases and spending cuts to occur -- the so-called fiscal cliff.

Floridians could face a delay in tax refund checks and smaller paychecks as tax cuts expire.

“The effects would be most pronounced around cities with military bases, such as Pensacola, Jacksonville and Tampa,” McCarty said.

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