Floridians' confidence in economy continues to decline

Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 2:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 2:08 p.m.

Florida consumer confidence dropped in September because of increasing pessimism among lower-income residents and seniors, according to a University of Florida survey.

The confidence index dropped one point to 76, continuing a three-month drop from a level of 81 in June.

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

Lower-income households were particularly pessimistic about personal finances, while growing pessimism about U.S. economic conditions was fueled by low-income respondents and seniors, said Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The outlook for the U.S. economy over the next year fell two points to 74, while the outlook over the next five years dropped six points to 72. Expectations that personal finances will improve in a year dropped three points to 78.

Perceptions that personal finances are better now than a year ago remained at 63, while perceptions of whether now is a good time to buy big-ticket items rose three points to 90.

A recent slide in consumer sentiment nationwide started early in Florida with July's results and is now reflected in other economic data, McCarty said. The trend means Florida could face another recession if the federal government shuts down following the upcoming battle in Congress over continued funding and the national debt limit, he said.

McCarty noted that Florida lost 4,000 jobs between July and August, and the labor force declined as a large number of people stopped looking for work. The median sales price of a single-family home also dropped $4,500 to $175,000 over the month.

Florida sales tax revenue also came in below projections in August, meaning the Legislature might not have as much of a surplus to allocate during next year's legislative session, he said.

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