Floridians' confidence in the economy and their own personal finances is the lowest it has ever been in the 25-year history of the Florida Consumer Confidence Index.
The index plunged to 57 as all five of its components fell, the University of Florida Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported today. The worst showing was for perceptions of whether it is a good time to buy big-ticket items.
"These are by far the worst readings we have ever seen," said Chris McCarty, director of the bureau's survey research center. "There is no other way to interpret these numbers other than to say that Florida consumers are hurting. Based on these results, I would have to predict consumer spending in Florida to pull back dramatically in the coming months."
Falling housing values, rising unemployment and higher food and energy costs are big factors, he said. McCarty said he expects housing prices to continue falling through July and then hit a low soon after that. Once prices stabilize, he thinks confidence in the financial system will return.
"Until that happens, Florida state and local government will suffer from low tax revenues," he said.
On a positive note, McCarty said he doesn't expect the index to decline much more in the near future and says it should start improvement when gas prices pull back.