Florida's Economy: How Bad Is It?
Florida is hurting: A regional look at the rough patches and bright spots.
There’s plenty of pain throughout Florida these days, as the effects of the real estate market collapse and the national economic slowdown wash through the state’s economy. Nearly 30,000 Floridians had filed for bankruptcy by midyear — three-fourths as many as filed during all of 2007. The state is second in the country in foreclosures, and U.S. Census data indicate that about a third of south Florida mortgage holders are spending at least half their paychecks on housing costs.
Meanwhile, unemployment statewide has risen to 6.5%, an increase of 2.3 percentage points from a year earlier. The biggest job losses have come, predictably, in construction — some 76,000 jobs lost statewide between August 2007 and August 2008 as home building bottoms out. Retail trade has been hit hard as well: The anecdotal tales of woe from local clothing stores, florists and other retailers is born out in figures showing some 14,000 fewer retail jobs in August compared to a year earlier.
Bright spots? Employment in wholesale trade, particularly in electronics and groceries, is up. Tourism-related employment has also risen, by around 15,000 jobs in the past year, indicating that one of Florida’s backbone sectors is holding its own amid the turmoil.
Curiously, given all the groans from state and local government officials about constrained budgets, total government employment has risen by about 11,000 jobs between August 2007 and the same month this year. About 8,500 of those jobs were with local governments.
Florida is a state of regions, and Florida Trend asked businesspeople from all parts of the state to talk about the rough patches and bright spots in insurance news their regional economies. Along with those comments are data that say a lot about the health of local economies: Gross sales (sales of taxable and non-taxable goods, excluding real estate), home sales, school enrollments and regional unemployment figures.