1. Archive


Consumer confidence plunges as financial uncertainty grows.

The still-hazy impact of the gulf oil spill and lingering double-digit unemployment are making Floridians feel much worse off than they did a year ago, according to a University of Florida survey released Tuesday.

Florida's consumer confidence index fell 3 points in June to 67, UF reported. Among various components of the survey, the biggest drop was in perceptions of personal finances compared to a year ago. That plummeted 9 points to 45, a relatively low level.

"The decline in the personal finance questions suggests that on top of the weak recovery, the oil spill has caused some real economic pain, such as through jobs related to tourism and perceptions of lower property values," said Chris McCarty, survey director with UF's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The upshot: Since consumer confidence drives spending, retailers could be in for a sluggish summer.

McCarty, for one, predicts that recent drops in consumer confidence are unlikely to reverse until the leaking oil is stopped and the impact of the spill can be quantified.

"We should expect confidence, and therefore retail sales, to be anemic through the summer and perhaps well into the fall," he said.

The Florida numbers mirror nationwide findings from the New York-based Conference Board, whose Consumer Confidence Index dropped almost 10 points in June to 52.9, down from the revised 62.7 in May.

That's the biggest monthly drop since February.

"Increasing uncertainty and apprehension about the future state of the economy and labor market, no doubt a result of the recent slowdown in job growth, are the primary reasons for the sharp reversal in confidence," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

The national unemployment rate, currently 9.7 percent, is expected to tick up slightly to 9.8 percent when the Labor Department releases its June data on Friday, according to economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Florida's jobless rate is at 12 percent and is also widely projected to rise this summer as part-time census jobs dry up.

Among other measurements in Florida's confidence report: Perceptions of U.S. economic conditions over the next year fell 2 points to 64; perceptions as to whether it is a good time to buy big-ticket items fell 1 point to 79.

The monthly telephone survey is benchmarked to 1966, meaning a value of 100 reflects the same level of confidence as in that year.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Jeff Harrington can be reached at or (727) 893-8242. Follow him on Twitter at