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High unemployment and difficulty paying for housing are the major reasons Tampa-St. Petersburg consumers are the most financially troubled in the United States.
According to CredAbility, a national nonprofit credit couseling and education agency, Tampa Bay is the most distressed major metro area in the nation — worse than Detroit, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Households in Washington, D.C., are the most financially healthy, followed by those in Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Honolulu and Dallas-Fort Worth, according to the agency.
Those are among the key findings of the latest CredAbility Consumer Distress Index, which tracks the financial condition of the average U.S. household by measuring five categories: employment, housing, credit, how families manage household budgets and net worth.
A score below 70 on the study's 100-point scale indicates a state of financial distress. Tampa Bay's score of 57.9 was the worst among 25 of the nation’s largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas.
Mark Cole, CredAbility's chief operating officer and publisher of the distressed index, told the Tampa Bay Times that the area's economic struggles are across the board, but the biggest factors in the poor rating are the ongoing housing crisis and still-high unemployment.
"Those two are really the big anchors that weigh you down compared to everybody else," Cole told the Times. "Over a five-year period, you guys have had some really difficult times there."
Mortgage delinquency rates in Tampa-St. Petersburg and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach are higher than any other major metro area, according to the study. Florida had the fifth-lowest score among all 50 states, ranking behind Nevada, Georgia, Michigan and Mississippi.
There's some good news for the nation's economy as a whole, though. U.S. households scored 69.9 in 2012’s first quarter on the Index’s 100-point scale, up from 67.6 in the previous quarter. The 69.9 score is the highest recorded since 2008’s third quarter and the increase of 2.3 points from the previous quarter is the highest quarterly jump in the past seven years.
Go to CredAbility's website for a detailed explanation of how the index works, a national map and other data.