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The Sun Belt's Comeback

Along with the oft-pronounced, desperately wished for death of the suburbs, no demographic narrative thrills the mainstream news media more than the decline of the Sun Belt, the country’s southern rim extending from the Carolinas to California. Since the housing bubble collapse in 2007, commentators have heralded “the end of the Sun Belt boom.”

Yet this assertion is largely exaggerated, particularly since the big brass buckle in the middle of the Sun Belt, Texas, has thrived throughout the recession. California, of course, has done far worse, but its slow population growth and harsh regulatory environment align it more with the Northeast than with its sunny neighbors.

Moreover, the Sun Belt is poised for a recovery, according to the most recent economic and demographic data. Even such hard-hit states as Arizona and most impressively Arizona appear to be making an unexpected, and largely unheralded, recovery.

Take Florida. The Sunshine State may have experienced rapid population loss during 2008 and 2009, but the just-released 2011 Census estimates show a remarkable turnaround, with the state adding 119,000 domestic migrants last year. This may be less than half the gains in 2004 and 2005, when the in-migration reached nearly 250,000, but it is close to levels enjoyed a decade ago.

The big winners in terms of growth were in the South, with Texas, Florida and North Carolina as the leading in-migration states. Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia also ranked in the top 10. Overall, the Southern states reaped 95% of the inter-regional net domestic migration (people moving from one state to another). Arizona, another state widely written off, enjoyed an 11th place finish, with a net gain over 13,000.

Looking forward, some of the “bubble states” appear to be taking a lesson from Texas and are reconsidering their former growth formula, which relied far too much on tourism, retirees and housing construction. “We know the business model has to change from just tourism and retirees,” notes Chris McCarty, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida. “We need to make a modification in our approach and now there’s a desire to do something about it.”

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The Sun Belt's Comeback - Forbes - December 22, 2011

USA sees 'flattest' growth in population since 1940s

The recession may be officially over, but its impact continues to reverberate as the nation experiences its most sluggish population growth since the 1940s.

The U.S. population grew 0.7% to 311.6 million in the year that ended July 1, even slower than at the height of the recession when the population grew 0.9%, according to new Census estimates. "The nation's overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the Baby Boom,'' Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said.

Many Sun Belt states that were hit hard by the housing collapse have not regained their footing — except for Florida, which is showing glimmers of a recovery. For the first time since the mid-2000s, the state is gaining more people from other states than it is losing. The state grew 1.2% to 19.1 million. "Florida is growing as much as it had in 2005-06," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

The Census estimates are more than double what Florida demographers had estimated, based on electrical hook-ups. "It could be that people are filling up vacant units that had electric hook-ups already," said Scott Cody, demographer with the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The discrepancy could also mean that more people are living under one roof and therefore not in need of new power connections. "It could be that people come down and are moving in to an existing household," Cody said.

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USA sees 'flattest' growth in population since 1940s - USA Today - December 21, 2011

Census shows fewer seniors in some South Florida cities

South Florida, which 40 years ago gave birth to senior citizen icons such as the early bird special and condo commando, is a retirement mecca no more, according to new Census statistics released Wednesday.

Broward County lost 4 percent of its 65-plus population between 2000 and 2010, the Census reported, while Palm Beach County gained a modest 9 percent.

"As we have become a congested urban environment, we have become less attractive to retirees," said Dick Ogburn, an analyst with the South Florida Regional Planning Council.

The Sunshine State still has appeal, however, retaining the highest percentage of senior residents in the country, with 17.3 percent older than age 65 in 2010.

Fourteen Broward cities lost a total of 11,685 senior residents in the past decade, led by Hallandale Beach with a 24 percent decrease and Tamarac with 21 percent. Among cities with the largest senior populations in Palm Beach County, Boca Raton gained 19 percent in its 65-and-older residents, while Boynton Beach lost 7 percent and Delray Beach, 8 percent.

Ogburn has been predicting the shift for the past 20 years. In the previous decade, from 1990 to 2000, Palm Beach County's 65-plus population grew 25 percent while Broward's basically flatlined, with a 1.4 percent increase.

Ogburn suspects the two counties never will return to their retirement migration heydays of the 1950s through '70s, when thousands of transplants poured into newly built condo complexes each year. While nice weather and good medical care are important, retirees looking to relocate also seek affordable housing, light traffic and low crime, experts agree.

When that changes, they either stop arriving or move on to other communities that offer those amenities, said Scott Cody, demographer for the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.

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Census shows fewer seniors in some South Florida cities - Sun-Sentinel - November 30, 2011

UF survey: Florida’s Consumer Sentiment stays level in November

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Consumer Sentiment Index among Floridians remained at 65 in November, a ranking that matches a revised mark set in October and is only two points higher than the record low of 59 set in June 2008.

The index used by University of Florida researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2; the highest is 150.

The November survey reveals a mixture of positive and negative perceptions.

“Consumers are slightly less optimistic about current conditions than they were last month and slightly more optimistic about long run conditions,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which conducted the survey.

McCarty noted that of the five categories used to measure Consumer Sentiment, two decreased, two increased and one remained unchanged, resulting in an overall mark of 65. Perceptions, for example, that compare personal finance levels with those of a year ago fell two points to 52. However, expectations that personal finances will improve a year from now went up three points to 79.

Meanwhile, respondents’ overall view that the U.S. economy will improve over the coming year fell two points to 52. However, their expectation that the economy will improve over the next five years remained unchanged at 67.

Finally, the perception that now is a good time to buy big-ticket consumer items, such as televisions and laptop computers, rose four points to 75.

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UF survey: Florida’s Consumer Sentiment stays level in November - University of Florida News - November 29, 2011

More on this topic:

Florida Consumer Sentiment remains low for another month - SunSentinel.com - November 29, 2011

Florida Consumer Sentiment still near record low - St. Petersburg Times - November 29, 2011

Florida confidence reverses slide but still “close” to a recession - Miami Herald - November 29, 2011

Consumer Sentiment remains low heading into holidays - The Florida Times Union - November 29, 2011

State Consumer Sentiment stuck at near-recession levels - Gainesville Sun - November 29, 2011

Consumer Sentiment unchanged in Florida - South Florida Business Journal - November 29, 2011

Consumer Sentiment in Florida remains low heading into busy shopping season - St. Augustine Record - November 30, 2011

Post-Black Friday Consumer Sentiment remains low - Sunshine State News - November 30, 2011

Fla. Consumer Sentiment drags - Gulf Coast Business Review - November 30, 2011

Florida Consumer Sentiment flat, near record lows - WUSF - December 1, 2011

Consumer Sentiment remains low in Florida - Jacksonville Business Journal - December 2, 2011

Florida Gets Bad Economic News

The unemployment rate in Florida has decreased slightly, but it is still higher than the national average, which according to the Department of Labor is 9 percent. Although Florida’s labor force increased by 14,000 from August to September, it is still down 26,000 from September of 2010. The state’s unemployment rate dropped a whopping one-tenth of 1 percent to 10.6 percent, after remaining fixed at 10.7 percent for three months. Individuals are considered unemployed after one no longer has an occupation, but is still looking for work. When people stop searching for work, for any reasons, they are no longer counted as ‘unemployed.’

Not only is Florida’s unemployment rate high, but Consumer Sentiment seems to be going down. Chris McCarty, a director of the University of Florida’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research said in a press release, “Consumer Sentiment continues to be in the doldrums, uncomfortably near record low levels here in Florida.” Unfortunately for Floridians, Consumer Sentiment seems unstable, despite reports of minor economic progress in certain sectors.

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Florida Gets Bad Economic News - The Epoch Times - November 21, 2011

Commercial Connection: SW Florida must pull together on the basics

The Great Recession of 2008 is officially over, according to a panel of economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a widely accepted arbiter of business cycles. In fact, the recession reached its "trough" (end of the decline and the subsequent beginning of the rise) in June 2009.

History and economic patterns remind us that immediately following a trough, declining periods are categorized as expansion periods in which markets level, stabilize, prepare for growth, and no doubt, create opportunity.

What's our next move to restore favorable economic conditions in Southwest Florida? Growth. A back-to-basics approach that serves to shift the focus from a cynical viewpoint of near-term economic conditions, to a cyclical one.

Southwest Florida's high quality of life, good access to excellent health care, safe, low-crime neighborhoods, and high education standards will ensure our growth and prosperity for generations to come. If we all simply work on the basics, the market will take care of itself.

Given consistent draws to Southwest Florida such as climate, lifestyle, taxing platform and health-care accessibility, migration to our area and Florida as a whole remains strong.

Gary L. Jackson, director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University's Lutgert College of Business, states that, when it comes to Southwest Florida, "One of the key drivers of our economy has been population growth since it drives not only construction jobs, but new households require many other goods and services. The quality of life in Southwest Florida will continue to draw people to our area, creating economic growth and the accompanying job creation. Tourism, health care and higher education have been growth industries.

In fact, medium level population projections from the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research estimate rises in Florida's net migration of 166,000 per year between 2010 and 2015 with high-level projection estimates of 193,000 per year between 2010 and 2015 - growth levels that are not far below the state's net migration averages per year during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when our area saw intense growth.

On a county level, research from BEBR shows a population forecast of 2.2 percent per year from 2010 to 2030 - creating substantial opportunity for our area to benefit from increases in our resident base.

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Commercial Connection: SW Florida must pull together on the basics - news-press.com - November 19, 2011. Original source article - Cushman & Wakefield

Students add to local income gap

College kids are making the city look bad.

According to statistics released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau, Gainesville's income gap was the fifth-largest in the nation from 2005 to 2009. Atlanta tops the list, followed by New Orleans; Washington, D.C.; and Miami. The city with the lowest income gap is West Jordan, Utah.

Eve Irwin, the research program services coordinator at UF's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said this ranking makes Gainesville's situation sound worse than it actually is. Gainesville's large student population and the city's rural surroundings present a stark contrast to the high-paying jobs drawn in by the university and local hospitals, she said.

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Students add to local income gap - The Independent Florida Alligator - November 4, 2011

Retiring Baby Boomers give Florida a cold shoulder

Oct 7 (Reuters) - Florida just isn't what it used to be for retirees.

Meet Patti Keagy, an American Baby Boomer, who is looking at other possible retirement destinations.

"My mother says her generation and other people that she knew made a mistake. They sold everything and they moved down to Florida," said Keagy, a resident of a Boston suburb.

"And then they realized, 'We're down here, we're on our own, we're by ourselves, and it's boring or lonely.' And they didn't want to be away from family," added Keagy, who is 60.

Her choices -- and the choices of others -- matter for Florida, Arizona, the Carolinas and other states that long for retired migrants -- and their steady incomes. Their spending on housing, healthcare and entertainment has created jobs and given rise to pockets of Sun Belt affluence.

The demographics -- well, they are a-changing, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy, an Albany, New York-based think tank. It pointed out that for the first time in 2009, more people left New York state for North Carolina than for Florida.

"A lot of states view that segment favorably and want to attract retirees," said Stan Smith, a specialist in population studies at the University of Florida. "There're lots of places in North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia with golf communities. Those places are trying to attract retirees."

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Retiring Baby Boomers give Florida a cold shoulder - Reuters - October 7, 2011

Harsh recession brings painfully slow rebound for South Florida

Nearly four years after the start of a devastating recession, South Florida’s recovery barely musters a passing grade.

The hiring landscape can boast of only anemic job growth, but unemployment remains near record highs. Real estate prices are bumping along a bottom. Spending hasn’t kept pace with price increases. Only South Florida’s tourism and cargo industries can boast sustained growth.

“The biggest problem is that this recovery has been much slower than in previous times,’’ said Mason Jackson, head of Broward’s workforce agency. “I lay it on the door of uncertainty. How is this going to work out?”

In December, it will be 48 months since the start of the worst economic downturn Florida has faced in at least a generation and probably since the Great Depression. Just as the recession was more severe than past ones, the recovery that officially began in June 2009 has unfolded at a surprisingly slow pace.

The lack of construction jobs helps explains the recovery’s low marks, said Chris McCarty, survey director at the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Past recessions saw construction slow, followed by a sharp rebound in new housing projects and renovations as confidence returned.

“If it was a normal recovery, construction would have already done its job of lifting us out of it,’’ he said. “This one is different. Population growth has been slower to come back.”

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Harsh recession brings painfully slow rebound for South Florida - Miami Herald - October 23, 2011

 

 

UF study finds modest rise in Florida’s Consumer Sentiment

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose this month to 64, up three points from a revised mark of 61 in August, which was only two points higher than the record low of 59 set in June 2008, according to a new University of Florida survey.

“The increase in confidence this month was mostly a rebound from very low levels in August,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research and Survey Research Center, which conducted the survey.

Of the five components used by UF researchers to measure confidence, four edged upward. Expectations, for instance, that personal finances would rise in the coming year went up five points to 78. In addition, consumer anticipation that the U.S. economy will improve in the coming year rose by one point to 52. There was also a four-point increase to 66 in the overall expectation that the country will see economic gains during the next five years. Meanwhile, confidence that now is a good time to purchase retail big ticket items, such as laptops and cars, rose six points to 74.

“It is not surprising that confidence rose this month as we get further from the debt-ceiling debate,” McCarty said. “Confidence actually rose this month among both younger and older respondents, although it is still at historically low levels. “

The only component to show a decline in September was the perception that personal finances today are lower than a year ago. It fell by three points to 50, which means more consumers are pessimistic.

According to the survey, Florida’s seniors, whose perceptions accounted for much of the decline in August, remain pessimistic about the economy in both the short and long run. Confidence levels of those over 60 are at “record lows,” McCarty said.

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UF study finds modest rise in Florida’s Consumer Sentiment - University of Florida News - September 27, 2011

More on this topic:

How much confidence do Floridians have in the economy? - South Florida Business Journal - September 27, 2011

Florida's Consumer Sentiment up from last month's pessimism - Sun Sentinel - September 27, 2011

Florida confidence bounces off a low in August, but still hinting at recession - Miami Herald - September 27, 2011

Florida Consumer Sentiment rebounds slightly - St. Petersburg Times - September 27, 2011

Consumer Sentiment up slightly in Florida - Orlando Business Journal - September 27, 2011

Floridians' Consumer Sentiment up slightly, but still at historic low - Gainesville Sun - September 27, 2011

Florida Consumers Show Some Optimism - Sunshine State News - September 27, 2011