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Florida consumer confidence up from last year, still 'historically low'

Florida consumer confidence remains higher than a year ago and even last summer, but it's still in the "historically low" range as concerns over housing, jobs and tourism persist, according to a University of Florida survey released Tuesday.

After a revised, five-point jump in October, the index slipped only one percentage point to 72 this month.

"This suggests that the big increase in October was not an anomaly, but a return to a higher level of confidence," said Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The jump in October was driven in part by higher confidence levels among seniors, a trend that held up in November.

"Looking ahead, it now appears Florida consumers may remain at the current levels of optimism through the rest of the year," McCarty said. That suggests a stronger retail season than last year "although last year's weak sales make for an easy comparison."

For perspective, McCarty pointed out that before the Great Recession, the previous all-time low for Florida consumer confidence was 64. Even eight points higher than that, he said, is still in the low range. The top concern: persistent high levels of unemployment with the state's jobless rate stuck at 11.9 percent the past two months.

Nationally, optimism about economic conditions was more robust than expected, according to a separate report Tuesday.

The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index rose to a five-month high of 54.1 in November, up from a negatively revised 49.9 in October, the New York-based Conference Board reported. The index would have to reach 90 to be at a level indicating the economy is stable.

Times wires contributed to this report. Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com.

Florida consumer confidence up from last year, still 'historically low' 11/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 8:10pm]
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