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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumer Sentiment among Floridians rose three points to 69 in December, reflecting a cautious optimism in the economy, according to a recent University of Florida survey. Though the latest figure is only one point below the level set in December 2010, it also marks the highest rank in the past nine months.
The index used by UF researchers in the survey 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.
Consumer Sentiment in December shot up in four of the five indexes used by survey takers, and declined in only one. The index that reveals whether Floridians think their personal finances have improved from a year ago rose one point to 53. Another showed their overall expectations in the soundness of the U.S. economy jumped six points to 59. Confidence in the economy’s performance over the next five years also rose — this time three points to 71. Finally, the overall perception of survey takers that the present is a good time to buy “big ticket” items, such as washing machines and laptops — went up sharply by seven points to 85.
The only index to show dropping confidence was an expectation of a drop in personal finances a year from now, declining two points to 78.
Taken as a whole, the UF survey reflects a changing mood that matches growing confidence across the nation, said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. In addition, he added, there are factors in the Florida economy that were interpreted as positive by both younger and older respondents. Men were more positive than women by a margin of 71 points to 67.
“Floridians are most likely optimistic about continued improvement in the employment situation,” McCarty said. The decline in unemployment in November was .4 percent to 10 percent. The drop marked the first time in many months that economic sectors other than tourism led the way in employment increases. McCarty noted that employers in trade, transportation and utilities employed 34,800 more workers from October to November. However, he cautioned that many of these new jobs were in retail trade and may only reflect holiday seasonal hiring, which could disappear in early 2012.
McCarty also cited several other reasons for the change in mood. Retailers are offering big seasonal discounts to shoppers and mortgage interest rates are low. Housing prices may have “bottomed out” for a while, he said, hovering about around $130,100 for a single-family home. Gas prices are down, too. A gallon cost about 15 cents less than it did in November, though prices are expected to rise in 2012.
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.”
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The city of Gainesville had the fifth-widest income gap in the country from 2005-09, a United States Census Bureau American Community Survey report released this month says.
David Denslow, a research economist at the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research, attributed the high level of income inequality to two factors — a relatively small city with a large university and medical complex, and the poverty rate and lack of jobs in east Gainesville.
The University of Florida's contribution to the gap is not a cause for concern, but the depressed economic situation in east Gainesville is, Denslow said.
"The east Gainesville factor, we have been worrying about it forever and need to," he said.
UF factors into the income gap because Gainesville is a city of 115,146 with a university that has approximately 50,000 full-time students. Many of those students report little to no income while the university and the Shands medical complex have professors and doctors with some of the higher incomes in the city, Denslow said.
James Dewey, the BEBR program director for economic analysis, said adding a university the size of UF to what would otherwise be a predominantly rural area would always lead to high income inequality.
South Florida is behind only New York in having the widest gap between rich and poor, according to a new Census analysis of major U.S. metropolitan areas.
An influx of wealthy Latin Americans and construction workers thrown out of work by the housing bust led to the wide gap in household incomes in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, economists said.
The ranking is based on data measuring the range of household incomes from the Census' American Community Survey between 2005 and 2009.
South Florida's income gap widened in part because wealthy Brazilians and other Latin Americans are moving in, said Chris McCarty, director of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
Brazilians especially have more cash, he said.
"Brazil has one of the healthier economies in the world," McCarty said.