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Blame high unemployment as Florida's consumer confidence falls in February

Well that didn't last long.

After a big jump in January, Florida's consumer confidence level tumbled in February.

Blame the fall on Florida's rising, double-digit unemployment, said Chris McCarty, director at the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which conducts the monthly survey.

"While national unemployment edged downward in January to 9.7 percent, Florida's unemployment increased to 11.8 percent," McCarty said. "Floridians may be coming to terms with the possibility that Florida's economy will not recover at the same pace as other states."

McCarty had predicted that the 5-point jump in confidence in January would be short-lived because the survey was taken before the latest unemployment numbers became public. The index dropped 2 points this month to 72, reflecting a low level of faith in the economy.

McCarty said more people are optimistic about their finances, heavy layoffs have abated, and the stock market and the housing market are stabilizing.

"There is no question that the economy is in better shape than it was even one year ago," he said. "The problem comes down to employment and the potential effects of extended high unemployment on other areas of the economy, such as retail sales and housing."

About 40 percent of the country's unemployed have been on the job hunt for more than six months. Many of them have exhausted benefits or soon will.

The telephone survey is benchmarked to 1966. A value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffmharrington.

Blame high unemployment as Florida's consumer confidence falls in February 02/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 9:42pm]
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