Floridians turned slightly glummer in May, as worries over the national economy weighs on the Sunshine State.
The University of Florida’s monthly read of consumer sentiment dropped slightly last month, the school announced Tuesday, another bit of bad news that tracks a general trend of pessimism in recent months.
The latest reading of 66 in the University of Florida sentiment index is the lowest since August 2010, and well below the recent peak of 78 in the spring of 2010, when a recovery seemed to be gaining steam. It was the fifth straight month without improvements in the index.
As UF released its numbers, a more closely watched index seemed to suggest better news, at least nationally.
The monthly Case-Shiller index on housing prices edged up slightly in April from March, hinting at a bottom for a historic downturn in the real estate market. The Case-Shiller report listed South Florida as underperformer for April, one of only six large housing markets to post a monthly decline — down .2 percent from March. The average for the 20 largest housing markets was up .7 percent.
Still, the tiny drop amid a surge in sales suggests South Florida’s housing numbers are closer to turning a statistical corner. Analysts say perceptions of the housing market is a key element for consumer confidence. But other factors play a role, and the UF survey cited concerns about future cuts for Social Security and Medicare as weighing down confidence in retiree-heavy Florida.
Chris McCarty, who runs the center responsible for the UF survey, said the mood might get a little worse as government cutbacks in payrolls and services take hold.
“Typically I would characterize 66 as quite low for consumer confidence and would not expect much more of a decrease barring a dramatic negative event in the economy,” McCarty said. “I do expect there to be big changes on the way from a budget deal prior to Aug. 2 in order to get an increase to the debt ceiling. This will be the first installment of further budget reductions over the next couple of years that will negatively impact many Floridians. It is likely that consumer confidence will stay in the middle to upper 60s and possibly decline further as the details of the budget deal are revealed.”