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Florida sees third-sharpest drop in consumer confidence in 35 years

Concerns about the pandemic have made Floridians less optimistic about their current and future economic prospects.

GAINESVILLE — Floridians’ consumer confidence sharply declined in April, taking the third-steepest plunge in 35 years.

According to the latest Consumer Sentiment Index from the University of Florida, the pandemic drove Floridians’ optimism down 11 points over the five areas the index measures, resulting in an index of 75.9.

This comes on the heels of a 15.2-point drop in March, the single largest drop Florida has seen since the Sunshine State index began in 1985.

“It’s huge,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the university’s economic analysis program.

Consumers, the index found, are less optimistic about their personal finances compared to the same month last year (73.6, down almost 11 points). They were particularly negative about whether now is a good time to purchase a “big-ticket” item such as a car or appliance (47.3 points, down nearly 29 points). This confidence category took the largest hit.

Women had slightly more pessimistic views, though the sentiments were consistent across the demographic groups surveyed.

“The continued decline in consumer confidence comes as no surprise as large sectors of the economy have remained paralyzed and an increasing number of workers are being furloughed following the efforts to contain the pandemic,” Sandoval said in an earlier release.

Related: Pandemic shakes Florida’s consumer confidence, survey finds

The index compares consumers’ sentiment to the average consumer sentiment in the U.S. in 1966, the study’s benchmark. The lowest index recorded in Florida since 1985, when state sentiment began being recorded, is 58.8, while the highest was 110.5.

April’s index is of particular note because it comes directly after March’s decline. The only other decline as sharp was an 11.7-point drop in 2005 following the historic hurricane season involving Hurricanes Katrina, Dennis and Wilma.

Floridians in April were slightly less optimistic, the index found, about future economic prospects. Those surveyed were weren’t optimistic about their finances a year from now (99.4, down less than one point). They were even less hopeful about the country’s economic conditions a year from now (71.9, down about 8 points) and concerned about U.S. economic conditions over the coming five years (87.8, down just less than 8 points)..

Sandoval said that while the index will eventually rise, he expects further declines in May as the state and country slowly open their economies and try to return to normal life. The declines, he said, won’t likely be as sharp as March and April.

“The economy is reopening now, but there’s still a little uncertainty,” he said. “It will take time.”

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