Floridians' confidence in the economy continues to grow as a statewide consumer survey hit highs not seen since before the Great Recession, the University of Florida announced Tuesday.
Consumer confidence in Florida rose one point in June to 82, a post-recession high, said Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
"The last time perception of current buying conditions reached this level was April of 2007" — eight months before the Great Recession officially started, said McCarty in a written statement.
Consumer confidence has been building since spring, he said. June is the fourth consecutive month to show an increase of Floridians’ optimism, McCarty said.
This month's UF consumer confidence survey found a broad spurt of optimism with four of the five components measured in the UF survey rising and one staying same.
"I think people are beginning to feel we're back -- or at least we're on the way back," said South Florida economist William B. Stronge, a professor emeritus at Florida Atlantic University.
In fact, this year Florida may begin to start outpacing the nation in economic activity, said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness.
"We’re starting to see a bit of acceleration," Snaith said.
The Sunshine State already has a lower unemployment rate than the nation's -- 7.1 percent vs. the country's 7.6 percent, he noted.
"2013 is shaping up to be a year for Florida to transition back into higher growth," Snaith predicted.
This month's UF consumer confidence survey saw respondents' overall opinion that they are better off financially now than a year ago rising this month. So did their confidence that their personal finances will improve in the next year.
Their optimism spilled over into a sunnier view on U.S. economic conditions, both in the coming year and over the next five years.
Finally, the survey shows that consensus of whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item such as a television went up to a post-recession high, McCarty said.
Several factors explain Floridians' current optimism, including the state's lower unemployment rate and rising home prices, McCarty said.
"The housing market is showing clear signs of recovery," said UCF economist Snaith. "That helps to restore the wealth that so many Floridians lost" during the Great Recession.
Still, Florida has a long way to go, said FAU’s Stronge. He pointed out a report released Monday that showed Florida is still short of about 500,000 jobs from the pre-recession high of more than 8 million jobs, according to the business group, the Florida Chamber Foundation.
But some of those jobs were fueled by the housing boom that went bust, helping bring on bad economic times, Stronge said. Florida won’t return to those numbers for a while, the economist said.
Nevertheless, "every indicator shows things are returning in the direction of normal," he said.
Conducted June 1-20, the UF study surveyed 434 Floridians across a demographic cross-section. 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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