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Corona Economics

Florida consumer sentiment surges in September after bleak COVID-19 summer

While consumer confidence is on the rise, it still has a long way to go.

A refreshing burst of confidence is sweeping over many consumers in the state, according to Bureau of Economic Business Research at the University of Florida data released this week.

Consumer sentiment saw a notable uptick in September, reversing bleak outlooks recorded during the summer. Florida’s consumer sentiment jumped 6.3 points in the past month to 85.1, up from 78.8 in August.

While consumer sentiment is finally on the rise, it’s still off from figures recorded before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

“September’s reading shows the largest increase in consumer sentiment since it bottomed out in April. Nonetheless, the index has only recovered to about half of the levels observed before the economic downturn due to the pandemic,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the UF business research program.

The September figures finally put a stop to sliding consumer confidence expressed over the summer as the COVID-19 outbreak raged in Florida. In August alone, the consumer sentiment in the state dropped 2.1 points from July to 78.4. July also saw a slide in consumer confidence.

Consumers considering large ticket purchases such as homes, vehicles and household appliances surged in September. Floridians said they are more likely to make those purchases now, coming in at 80.2, up from 71.8 in August.

Floridians also said they expect their financial situation to improve a year from now. Personal finance confidence was 95.7 in September, up 5.2 points from August.

Sandoval said there are key Florida industries that are still holding the state back from a full economic recovery and that may take many more months. But Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to lift coronavirus restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses will likely provide an upbeat business environment.

“With most of the tourism industry still far from pre-pandemic levels, economic activity in Florida is expected to increase in the short-term as the state moves into Phase 3 of reopening, lifting all restrictions on restaurants and businesses. Although it is not uncommon to see an impact on consumer sentiment from the presidential election, looking ahead we expect consumer confidence to continue increasing as restrictions on businesses are lifted,” Sandoval said.

The UF business bureau randomly interviewed 382 Floridians in email and on cellular phones between Sept. 1 – 24 to compile its data on consumer sentiment.

Written By

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at drewdixonwriting@gmail.com.

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