Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Business

Floridians' consumer confidence shaken by hurricanes

Consumer confidence among Floridians dropped in September as unease over short-term economic conditions rose sharply, according to the University of Florida's monthly consumer sentiment index

The index dropped six-tenths of a point in September to 95.5 from a revised figure of 96.1 in August.

Of the five components that make up the index, three decreased and two increased.

Expectations of personal finances a year from now showed the biggest drop this month, down 4.4 points from 104.8 to 100.4. Similarly, there was a drop in expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year, falling from 95.8 to 93.2. Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years, however, rose 3.7 points from 89.6 to 93.3.

Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, drew a connection to short-term damage caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

"Most of the pessimism in September stems from negative expectations regarding the personal financial situation of Floridians in the short-run. These expectations reflect in part the current and expected effects of the hurricane season on the state," Sandoval said.

Hurricane Harvey's push through Texas in August helped trigger a rise in gas prices. And Hurricane Irma's subsequent battering of Florida caused a decline in overall economic activities and economic growth in the state, triggering business closures and job losses.

Nonetheless, as the state continues to recover, these trends will likely reverse as rebuilding efforts take place, Sandoval said. He predicts the positive labor market conditions that have prevailed in the state for the past few years will persist.

Among the other two components of the survey: perceptions of one's personal financial situation now compared with a year ago decreased from 87.8 to 87.2 while opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket household item such as an appliance increased from 102.6 to 103.2.

Economists are keeping a close watch on consumer confidence levels as we move closer into the holiday shopping season.

The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

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