Consumer confidence growing

TALLAHASSEE — Despite unemployment not seen in 30 years, consumer confidence in Florida may be on the rise, at least temporarily.

The University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research released its latest survey Tuesday saying consumer confidence has risen five points in January to 74.

“The sharp rise was somewhat of a surprise,” said Chris McCarty, survey director at BEBR. “In the past we have seen similar jumps in the January index, perhaps in response to the (lifting of the) financial stress associated with the holidays and the economic turbulence of the past year.”

The latest numbers come despite the high unemployment rate, which hit 11.8 percent in December, representing 1.1 million people out of work. People were asked about their confidence, though, before they heard about the jump in the jobless rate last month.

“We believe that once we have collected an extra week‚s worth of data (for the end of the month), consumer confidence will edge downward,” McCarty said in a release. “These data do not reflect the negative employment report that was released on Friday.”

McCarty said he expects consumer confident to decline several points in February, but noted that January's overall index was the highest since December 2007.

The increase was broad-based across incomes and age levels. The biggest jump was in perception of whether or not it is a good time to buy big-ticket items, which went from 75 points to 83 points.

Perceptions of personal finances compared to a year ago, also increased five points to 50, while expectations of personal finances a year from now rose five points to 85. Economists also noted a rise in perceptions of the U.S. economic conditions over the next year, and an increase in perceptions of U.S. business conditions over the next five years.

The bureau conducts the Florida Consumer Attitude Survey monthly. Respondents are 18-years-old or older and are contacted at random. The index is benchmarked to 1966, so a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year.

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