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Florida consumer sentiment ticks downward before the election

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Consumer sentiment among Floridians declined 1.5 points in October to 90, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

The reading is the last one before the November election.

“Consumer sentiment is 1.5 points lower than the current year’s average,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

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

Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the greatest increase this month, climbing 3.5 points from 81 to 84.5.

Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item, such as an appliance, plummeted 9.9 points from last month, from 102.1 to 92.2. This outlook is shared by all Floridians independent of their socioeconomic condition, but may be influenced by anticipation of upcoming holiday sales.

“This unfavorable perception of present conditions is the main force behind the overall decrease in the index this month,” Sandoval said.

Expectations of personal finances a year from now dropped 3.2 points to 97.6. Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year decreased nine-tenths of a point to 84.4, and expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years rose 3.1 points, from 88.2 to 91.3.

“Future expectations have remained unchanged with low variation over the last 10 months, but they might shift following the elections,” Sandoval said.

Since May, the Florida unemployment rate has remained unchanged at 4.7 percent, the lowest level since the last recession. Moreover, per the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, “Since December 2010, Florida businesses created more than 1.2 million jobs, exceeding the nation’s annual job growth rate for four and a half years.”

Florida’s economy kept adding jobs statewide in September.

Of note: The Florida labor force — the number of Floridians with paid jobs or looking for work — increased as well, after five months of declines.

“Contrary to the performance of Florida, the nation’s unemployment rate has increased since May, from 4.7 to 5 percent in September. Although, both the U.S. and Florida have experienced economic growth in recent quarters, a downturn in economic activity may be expected,” Sandoval said.

“The outcome of the presidential elections will clear up much uncertainty, but a new economic perspective will arise for the nation. November’s consumer sentiment reading will be very important to gauge Floridian’s perceptions and expectations about future consumption, as the holiday sales season begins,” Sandoval said.

Conducted Oct. 1-23, the UF study reflects the responses of 408 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross-section of Florida.

The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

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