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GAINESVILLE, FL-The state’s consumer confidence index rebounded to 70 in August based on rising housing prices and stock market gains, yet is still bogged down by high unemployment. Those are the findings from the latest Florida Consumer Attitude Survey by the University of Florida, based on 425 responses gathered in August.

While perceptions of personal finances have remained unchanged, those of US economic conditions over the next one to five years and personal finances in the coming year all rose sharply. The only component showing a lower score was whether now is a good time to buy big-ticket items.

“We are not out of this recession yet, particularly here in Florida, but things are not nearly as bad as they were a year ago,” says Chris McCarty, survey director for UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. He notes that an increase in consumer confidence was expected this month after slight declines in June and July.

Home sales have picked up both nationally and in Florida, with falling prices suggesting a bottoming out of the market slump, McCarty says. However, he points out that continuing foreclosures could further depress home prices.

Employment has shown no signs of improvement, with the state jobless rate exceeding 10% in July for the third consecutive month. McCarty calls this “an enormous problem” and says the numbers, which do not account for residents who have given up looking for work, is likely to increase through the remainder of this year and into 2010.

Consumer confidence in Florida is expected to stay in a range between the upper 60s and low 70s as the recovery develops, McCarty says. Real estate, construction spending and tourism, three major sectors of the state economy over the past two decades, will stabilize but not grow as they had, he adds. “Florida needs a new approach,” he concludes.

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