Floridians are starting 2018 with their sunniest consumer outlook in 16 years, according to research from the University of Florida.
Consumer sentiment rose to a score of 99.8 on a scale that tops out at 150. That’s a level not seen since March 2002, when consumer confidence was even a little higher at 102 points.
Residents surveyed in January felt slightly better than they did the previous month about where their personal finances stand compared to year ago.
They had stronger positive outlooks about what their finances should be like a year from now, as well as how they expect the U.S. economy to fare a year from now and five years from now. They were a little less optimistic than they were the month before that now is a good time to buy an appliance or other big-ticket household item.
That said, not every good feeling was universally felt. Respondents with incomes of less than $50,000 a year were more pessimistic — that is, their level of consumer sentiment dropped from where it was in December — by every measure in the survey. Those younger than 60 reported being less optimistic this month about what they expect from the national economy over the next five years.
The survey contacted 482 Floridians on their mobile phones from Jan. 1 to Jan. 25, and overall their consumer sentiment tracked several economic trends:
• The number of jobs statewide in December rose 2.5 percent compared to 12 months before, with the biggest gains in jobs going to professional and business services, followed by construction, transportation and utilities.
• Home sales rose 2.6 percent in December, with median and average prices both rising even as the overall number of real estate listings fell.
• Florida’s real gross domestic product increased 3 percent from the second to the third quarter of 2017.
"We expect consumer sentiment in Florida to continue its upward trend as household income and wealth improve alongside the current local labor and housing market conditions," said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, in an announcement of the survey’s findings.
UF researchers use an index that’s benchmarked to 1966 to reflect consumer sentiment. That means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence reported in surveys taken that year. Those surveyed in January had an average age of 49. Fifty-five percent were men, 45 percent were women. Forty-eight percent had incomes lower than $50,000. Seventy-two percent were white, 28 percent were non-white and 21 percent said they had Hispanic origins.
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