Florida consumer confidence hits 17-year high

Dated: 05/01/2019

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Florida consumers are feeling pretty good these days.

Despite some concerns about current economic conditions, consumer sentiment in Florida reached a 17-year high in April, the University of Florida reported Tuesday.

The Consumer Sentiment Index posted its fourth straight month of improvement, with consumers feeling better about their personal finances and their expectations for future economic conditions.

But they were wary about whether this is a good time to spend money on a big ticket item.

“Overall, Floridians are more optimistic,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “April’s confidence boost stems from the positive outlook regarding national economic conditions in the short- and long-run.

“It is worth noting expectations are split among the population by gender, with women reporting less-favorable views,” he said.

Economic activity has expanded in Florida and the jobless rate held at 3.5% in March, with an additional 209,700 jobs over the year. The Sarasota-Manatee unemployment rate dipped to 3.2%. Personal income increased 5.2% statewide in 2018, compared with 4.5% for the nation.

Economists closely watch consumers’ sentiments because their spending on goods and services is the key driving force of the U.S. economy, accounting for approximately 70 percent of all economic growth. The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents that year’s same level of confidence. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

Consumer sentiment among Floridians increased to 102.0 in April from March’s revised figure of 100.6. It was the highest level since the 102 recorded in March 2002.

Consumer sentiment at the national level increased similarly, according to the Conference Board, a business research group. Its confidence index rose to 129.2 in April, from 124.2 in March. That index slipped in March amid roiling financial markets and a February employment that showed hiring had tumbled.

Among the five components that make up the Florida index, four increased and one decreased:

• Floridians’ opinions of their current personal financial situation rose 0.8 points over the year to 97.5.

• Expectations about personal financial situations a year from now rose 3.2 points to 110, the highest since May 1999.

• Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year increased 2.3 points to 99.9.

• Similarly, confidence in U.S. economic conditions over the next five years gained 2.4 points to 96.6.

• But overall perceptions as to whether now is a good time to buy a major household item like an appliance decreased 1.2 points to 106.3.

“Looking ahead, given the economic outlook and the current levels of confidence, we anticipate consumer sentiment to remain high in Florida in the following months,” Sandoval said.

Conducted April 1-25, the study reflects the responses of 539 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross-section of Florida.

Original Source: HeraldTribune

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