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Fla. Consumer Confidence Rises but Rough Year Expected

Floridians expect good things for their personal finances one year from now and the U.S. economy over five years, but they’re pessimistic about 2021’s prospects. Record-high attitudes tanked when the pandemic hit but have been slowly moving higher since then.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – December consumer confidence among Floridians ticked up 1.1 points to 82.2 from November’s revised figure of 81.1.

The increase reflects a slightly more optimistic attitude heading into 2021, however, the numbers are still below 2020 sentiment numbers recorded before the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the five components that make up the index, three increased and two decreased.

Current conditions: Floridians’ opinions about current economic conditions were mixed. Views of personal financial situations now compared with a year ago decreased nine-tenths of a point from 69.2 to 68.3 – but opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a major household item like an appliance increased 1.9 points from 76.6 to 78.5.

Despite moving in opposite directions, opinions were consistently split across sociodemographic groups. Men, people younger than age 60 and people with annual income above $50,000 expressed less-favorable views, while women, people age 60 and older and people with annual income under $50,000 expressed more-favorable views.

Future expectations: Outlooks about future economic conditions were also mixed. Expectations of personal finances a year from now increased 3.6 points from 91.6 to 95.2, but the gauge measuring expected U.S. economic conditions over the next year decreased 1.6 points from 83.3 to 81.7. However, that changes over a five-year timespan, where expectations over economic conditions increased 2.7 points from 84.7 to 87.4.

Future outlooks were also split by demographics, with people older than 60 and with incomes under $50,000 consistently reporting more pessimistic views.

“The gain in December’s consumer sentiment reading comes from Floridians’ expectations about their personal finances a year from now and expectations about the economy in five years,” says Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “However, the pessimism coming from consumers’ opinions about the national economic outlook in the next year suggests that Floridians anticipate gloomy economic prospects ahead in 2021.”

Last year was a strange one for the economy and consumer confidence. After reaching its highest level in 19 years in February, consumer sentiment reported two of the sharpest month-to-month declines on record in March and April, due to the economic shutdowns brought by the pandemic. Consumer confidence then bottomed out in April and has trended slightly upward since then.

“As the year ends, the difference between February and December is a remarkable 20.1-point gap, which can take a while to close,” Sandoval says. “It took around four years to regain 20 points after consumer confidence collapsed during the Great Recession.”

Sandoval says the COVID-19 vaccination program should influence January’s reading, which will “gauge Floridians’ views about their economic prospects for 2021.” Still, he generally expects consumer confidence to recover slowly during the year.

Conducted December 1-30, the UF study reflects the responses of 239 individuals reached on cellphones and 98 individuals reached through an online panel – a total of 337 individuals, representing a demographic cross section of Florida. The lowest possible index number is a 2, the highest is 150.

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