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Florida consumer confidence tumbles in July

Destiny Stephens, 12, left, of St. Petersburg checks out a top with volunteer Linda Wooldridge of St. Petersburg at the Target in Pinellas Park on July 23 as part of a Salvation Army and Target back-to-school program. Floridians with incomes under $30,000 are pessimistic about their future.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Destiny Stephens, 12, left, of St. Petersburg checks out a top with volunteer Linda Wooldridge of St. Petersburg at the Target in Pinellas Park on July 23 as part of a Salvation Army and Target back-to-school program. Floridians with incomes under $30,000 are pessimistic about their future.

Florida's consumer confidence tumbled in July, ending a four-month streak of gains, according to a University of Florida survey released Tuesday.

The UF survey is in lockstep with the Conference Board index also announced Tuesday that showed a July pull-back in consumer confidence nationally. But that result contrasts with a national survey by the University of Michigan that indicated confidence was up slightly.

Chris McCarty, survey director within UF's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said he was surprised by Florida's "sudden decline" of three points to a reading of 78 in July given generally positive economic news statewide.

"The drop in confidence seems to be driven by pessimism among younger respondents with lower incomes," McCarty concluded. Younger respondents increasingly said their personal finances were worse off than a year ago, while those with incomes under $30,000 were much more dire in expectations of where they would be financially a year from now.

One reason for the pessimism, he said, could be young people feeling left out of the economic recovery. Florida's unemployment rate has fallen to 7.1 percent and the rate is 7.6 percent nationally, but it remains much higher for younger Americans: 13.5 percent for those aged 20 to 24. "If you consider broader measures of unemployment, such as those who are under-employed (in lower paying jobs), the situation is worse," he added.

Among the five components measured in the monthly UF phone survey, the single biggest drop — a seven-point plunge — came when Floridians were asked whether they thought the nation's economy would be in better shape five years from now. There was also a six point drop in optimism over where their personal finances would be a year from now.

Only one of the components went up: a consensus that now is a good time to buy big-ticket items such as a new car jumped four points to 96, the highest level since April 2007.

The monthly index ranges from 2 to 150. The survey is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year.

Florida consumer confidence tumbles in July 07/30/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 10:01am]
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