The national Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index declined in February and appears to be stuck in March. The Index last month was at 92.2, down from 97.8 in January. MLS home closings in Southwest Florida have been weak since the start of the winter “selling season”, and more and more price reductions are being seen in the Naples market area. “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions in February weakened, primarily due to a less favorable assessment of business conditions,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers’ short-term outlook grew more pessimistic, with consumers expressing greater apprehension about business conditions, their personal financial situation, and to a lesser degree, labor market prospects. Since last month, a couple of major retailers announced minimum wage increases and in the Naples area, major medical device manufacturer, Arthryx, has announced new hirings and in Lee County, Hertz is hiring and reporting higher profits at its newly opened world headquarters.

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