TALLAHASSEE -- Consumer confidence hit a five-year, post-recession high in Florida this month, and researchers said Tuesday that the upcoming Nov. 6 election likely was a factor.The index, based on a survey conducted by the University of Florida, is up three points in September to 79 on a scale of 2 to 150. It's benchmark was 100 points in 1966.Supporters of Democratic President Barack Obama are much more optimistic than those backing Republican challenger Mitt Romney, said Chris McCarty, director of survey research for the university's Bureau of Economic and Business Research on the Gainesville campus.McCarty said political ideology could become an even more crucial factor for consumer confidence in October as the election draws even closer."Whether Floridians react negatively or positively remains to be seen, but it will largely determine consumer confidence as we get close to the holiday shopping season," McCarty said.He said the Oct. 3 presidential debate on domestic policy could cause confidence to decline again. That's because the candidates likely will be questioned about what's been termed a "fiscal cliff" facing the nation in January if Congress fails to renew temporary tax cuts and allows automatic spending reductions to go into effect.September's index is the highest since October 2007.
U.S. consumer confidence jumped this month to the highest level since February, bolstered by a brighter hiring outlook.
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 70.3. That's up from 61.3 in August, which was revised higher. And it's the highest reading since February, when the economy added 259,000 jobs.
The indicator is watched closely because consumer spending drives nearly 70 percent of economic activity. The reading is still below 90, a level that
indicates a healthy economy. Since the beginning of the year, the index has fluctuated sharply.
The survey was conducted from Sept. 1 through Sept. 13. It showed consumers were more optimistic about the current availability of jobs and their outlook over the next six months.
Their confidence in the job market is higher, even though employers added just 96,000 jobs in August. That's down from 141,000 in July and too few to keep up with population growth.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent, but only because many people gave up their job search, so they were no longer counted as unemployed.
A measure of how consumers feel now about the economy rose to 50.2, up from 46.5 last month. And they are even more optimistic about the next six months.
The upbeat report on confidence comes as a widely watched index on home prices offered more evidence of a housing recovery. According to the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller index, home prices kept rising in July across the United States, buoyed by greater sales and fewer foreclosures.
National home prices increased 1.2 percent in July, compared to the same month last year, according to the index.