While students might be worrying about loans and financial aid, consumers in Florida aren’t that stressed about their wallets.
A UF survey completed in December showed Florida consumers had more hope in the economy last month than in any other since the recession ended, which may lead to an increase in jobs.
The UF Survey Research Center conducts the survey every month, and December’s score of 87.4 was the highest since 2007.
“The idea is that this is supposed to measure consumer optimism,” said Chris McCarty, director of the research center and UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
About 500 households were asked a series of questions relating to their personal finances, as well as their opinions on the current and future national economy.
The score is based on a formula derived from the responses. If the score is less than 100, consumers are less confident in the economy then they were in 1966, a historically productive year. If it is over 100, consumers are more confident.
“So historically that’s not a fantastic reading,” McCarty said. “But it turns out that is the highest it’s been since the recession ended.”
The highest Florida has ever scored was 111 back in the late ‘90s or early ‘00s, he said.
But these results showed a better job market than Florida has seen since the recession, McCarty said. And it could mean good things for students looking to join the world of retail and entry-level positions.
“Normally, higher consumer confidence would translate into retailers doing better and then retailers hiring more,” he said.
However, retail doesn’t appeal to all after graduation.
UF biology sophomore Cheyenna Espinoza said while any jobs are good for those looking to make an income, a job in retail is not for her.
“We need more manufacturing and higher-order jobs like doctors and engineers, even like teaching,” said Espinoza, 19, who currently works as a waitress at Cracker Barrel. “I’m here trying to succeed so I don’t have to (be a waitress) for the rest of my life.”
Consumers also have the benefit of falling oil prices.
“The price of a barrel of oil, internationally, has fallen like a rock,” McCarty said.
The international price of a barrel of oil, which has been as expensive as $90 in the past, is currently sitting at about $49, he said.
This has led to the lowest gas prices since many current college students started driving.
“We haven’t gotten back to where we were, and we won’t for a while,” he said. “But things have been improving considerably.”
[A version of this story ran on page 8 on 1/9/2015 under the headline “UF survey: Economy doesn't stress Florida"]