Sunday, December 17, 2017
Business

Florida consumer confidence flat but still low in August

Florida's unemployment rate isn't the only economic indicator stuck in neutral this summer. The state's consumer confidence level was unchanged this month, according to a University of Florida survey released Tuesday.

Three of the five measures used to gauge confidence fell in August. That was offset, however, by a 6-point jump in consumers' expectations that their personal finances would be in better shape a year from now.

In July, confidence had fallen sharply after five months of rising or flat optimism.

Survey director Chris McCarty said a concern over current personal finances and buying conditions is fueling a persistent pessimism.

"While the big drop in confidence for July was mainly from low-income and younger Floridians, a group that remains more pessimistic, there was slightly growing pessimism among older and higher-income Floridians as well in August," he said.

With rising interest rates and another likely congressional debate over raising the debt ceiling, McCarty predicted pessimism will increase into the fall. The state's unemployment rate has remained at 7.1 percent for three straight months.

Florida's August confidence reading of 77 reflects a level only modestly improved from the depths of the recession. UF's index is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 equals the level of confidence from that year.

Separately, the Conference Board reported Tuesday that its national Consumer Confidence Index increased slightly in August, rebounding from a July slump.

Lynn Franco, an economist with the organization, attributed the rise to improving short-term expectations.

"Consumers were moderately more upbeat about business, job and earning prospects," she said. "In fact, income expectations, which had declined sharply earlier this year with the payroll tax hike, have rebounded to their highest level in 2 1/2 years."

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