GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jan. 31, 2017 – Floridians’ consumer sentiment ticked up another half point to 97.8 in January – the highest reading since March 2002. It’s an increase from the 97.3 logged in December, according to the latest University of Florida (UF) consumer survey.

Florida’s upward trend also tracks the national figures released last week by the University of Michigan, with the national consumer sentiment index at the highest level since February 2004.

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

Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the greatest increase, rising 5.4 points from 82.8 to 88.2. With the exception of those 60 and older, all Floridians shares this view.

Opinions as to whether it’s a good time to buy a big-ticket household item, such as an appliance, increased slightly from 101.2 to 102.3.

“Perceptions of current conditions improved among Floridians in the last month, as a result of the positive economic picture that prevailed in the state during the last year,” says Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “The recent surge in the level of confidence comes from perceptions and expectations about Floridians’ individual financial situations.”

And many Floridians expect their personal finances to continue to improve. Expectations of personal finances a year from now rose 2.5 points, from 103.9 to 106.4.

However, views on the future of the national economy were gloomier: Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year dropped 3.3 points, from 99.9 to 96.6, while anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next five years decreased 2.7 points from 98.5 to 95.8.

Economic data in Florida continues to be generally positive. Although the December unemployment rate in Florida remained at 4.9 percent, the number of jobs added last year statewide was 251,400 – a 3.1 percent increase year-to-year. The industry sector gaining most jobs was leisure and hospitality, followed by education and health services, then professional and business services.

“There is no doubt that the state’s economy is in better shape than it was several years ago,” Sandoval says. “However, both short- and long-run expectations about the national economic situation are pessimistic, particularly over the next year. These negative expectations are shared by most Floridians but are strongest among those with incomes under $50,000.”

Sandoval thinks the diminished national expectations may reflect uncertainty associated with upcoming economic policy changes under the new U.S. administration. “The next few months will be key to understanding these changes and assessing their potential impact on the economy,” he adds.

Conducted Jan. 1-26, the UF study reflects the responses of 449 individuals 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.

Source: Florida Realtors