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Floridians Feeling More Confident

For the second straight month, Floridians’ confidence in the economy ticked upward in September, driven by a belief that the recession is loosening its grip on the country, according to a University of Florida survey released Tuesday.

The state’s consumer confidence rating climbed three points to a 74 rating – following a four-point jump in August, researchers said.

“There’s optimism lifting the index,” said Chris McCarty, survey director for the school’s bureau of economic and business research. “But people are still not feeling very good about their personal finances.”

While overall confidence rose, perception of personal finances in September compared to a year earlier – when Wall Street was in free fall – remain unchanged at a 44 rating, five points above the all-time low reached of 39 reached in December. Expectations about personal finances a year from now are still gloomy -- falling three points to an 81 rating.

McCarty said the unease Floridians are feeling about their own finances will likely cloud retail sales through the November-December holiday season. Most analysts already forecast retail sales this winter as flat, although slightly better than last year when the economy was in a deep trough.

“People still don’t feel good about their own bank accounts,” McCarty said.

The survey showed Floridians’ view of U.S. economic conditions over the next year is on the rise – with longterm forecasts even stronger. Perceptions of whether now is a good time to buy big-ticket items, such as appliances and cars also rose nine points to 84 in the survey.

“On the negative side, unemployment remains at 10.7 percent for Florida,” McCarty said. “This number is not expected to improve much until next year, and it could still get worse. Florida lost population this past year and could do so again as the underlying problems preventing people from moving are still in place.”

Although the yearlong drop in home values seems to be easing in Florida, researchers found that the perception that Florida’s growth-driven economy must change is helping drive legislative efforts to bring offshore oil-drilling to the state.

Gas prices are down, a factor that usually boosts consumer confidence. But the oil-drilling push has emerged, in part, as lawmakers look to revamp Florida’s economy.

“It is likely that discussions about offshore drilling will receive much more attention as Florida looks for industries to replace those dependent on population growth,” McCarty said.

BEBR monthly conducts the Florida Consumer Attitude Survey, phoning respondents age 18 or older. The September index stemmed from 412 responses.

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