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Florida business, labor leaders praise Obama jobs plan

WASHINGTON — In job-starved Florida, President Barack Obama's nationally televised address to Congress sparked renewed hope on Friday that a burst of federal spending and tax incentives would prompt companies to begin hiring again.

Business leaders welcomed Obama's proposal to extend and expand a cut in payroll taxes and to dispense tax credits for hiring the unemployed. They were especially enthused about his call to ratify long-awaited trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which could expand Florida's share of the world market.

Worker advocates hailed Obama's attempt to extend emergency unemployment benefits, which are scheduled to expire later this year, as well as proposals to help communities rehire teachers and to pour more money into construction of schools and highways.

Perhaps most significant, business and labor leaders generally agreed that Congress should set aside partisan conflicts and strike a deal to rev up the economy.

The reaction was surprisingly upbeat, given the state's persistent unemployment and widespread cynicism about Obama's prior attempts to stimulate the economy. For a day, at least, a call to spur the economy eclipsed concerns about the national debt.

Still, on the day after the president's speech, hope was tempered by skepticism about Washington's ability to get anything done and about whether the president's plan, if adopted, would actually work.

A big question is whether companies that are sitting on lots of cash will be motivated to expand and hire more people. The answer from a sample of business leaders on Friday was yes, but not in huge numbers — and not right away.

Consumer demand would prompt companies to meet it, which often means hiring more workers.

The Obama plan "will definitely have an effect on Consumer Sentiment," said Chris McCarty, who directs consumer surveys at the University of Florida. His latest survey shows Consumer Sentiment only slightly higher than the record low in June 2008, when Florida was hemorrhaging jobs and housing values were plummeting.

"This could give a temporary lift," he said, "and a more permanent one if it were to work."

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Florida business, labor leaders praise Obama jobs plan - Orlando Sentinel - September 9, 2011

Obama's jobs speech: President expected to propose $300 billion in tax cuts, aid

WASHINGTON — For five months, Bob Bloom has watched his business spike and dip, just like the stock market. After a great April, he suffered his worst July in six years. There was so little work "we sat around looking at each other," he said. Then, sales skyrocketed in August.

Earlier this week, Bloom worked until 9 p.m. to keep up with orders at his business, Ink & Toner USA in suburban West Palm Beach. He's again thinking of adding another employee to his four-person team.

Bloom is just the kind of business owner President Obama hopes to appeal to tonight when he lays out his plan to boost jobs in America. Yet the small business owner says there's virtually nothing the president could offer him - other than paying for the employee - that would guarantee Bloom will start interviewing.

"It's not predictable out there. The business has to justify hiring," he said. "I don't look to Washington to give me incentive to hire."

When Obama takes to the airwaves to address a joint session of Congress, he will be speaking to a skeptical public who, like Bloom, need concrete plans and not words to gain faith that the economy will improve.

The president is expected to propose spending roughly $300 billion on a package of tax cuts, infrastructure spending and aid to state and local governments, according to details of the plan that have leaked. The majority of the spending would go to extending unemployment benefits and a payroll tax reduction that saves the average working family close to $1,000.

Another widely reported facet of Obama's plan is a public/private infrastructure program that would include not only traditional roads, schools and power plant projects, but also soft infrastructure such as high-speed Internet for local governments and communities without it. The president is also expected to include money for local governments, as he did in his first stimulus plan, that would prevent teacher layoffs, for example.

Obama's jobs package could spur the creation of 75,000 to 150,000 jobs, said David Denslow, research economist for the Bureau of Economic and Business Research and professor in the University of Florida Department of Economics.

"We need that, but we certainly need far more than that," Denslow said.

Rather than extending the 2 percentage point payroll tax reduction, Obama instead should offer a tax credit solely for low-income workers, such as a household earning less than $30,000 or $40,000 a year, Denslow said. Those taxpayers are more likely to spend any money they save than higher wage earners who may instead pocket the payroll tax savings.

"You could probably get twice the jobs for the money," Denslow predicted.

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Obama's jobs speech: President expected to propose $300 billion in tax cuts, aid - Palm Beach Post - September 8, 2011

Dip in Florida Consumer Sentiment points toward recession

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumer Sentiment among Floridians decreased to a near-record low in August, according to a new University of Florida survey. This month’s mark of 62 is only three points higher than the record-low 59 set in June 2008.

“Although none of the index components were at record lows, the combined decrease in confidence across all five components is remarkable,” said Chris McCarty, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “If past history of this index is any indication, we are in, or at least very near, a recession. We are not likely to know for certain until after the fourth quarter.”

All five of the index’s components decreased, most notably perceptions of U.S. economic conditions over the next year, which fell six points to 51; perceptions of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years, which dropped six points to 63; and confidence to purchase big-ticket items such as cars and appliances, which dipped five points to 70. Perceptions of personal finances now compared with a year ago dropped four points to 54, and expectations of personal finances a year from now fell one point to 74.

A loss in confidence among women and seniors played a major role in the fall. Confidence among women dropped eight points to 59 and confidence among those age 60 and over fell nine points to 57. The loss in confidence among seniors was surprising because confidence among seniors rose five points in July, McCarty said, but the debate in Washington over raising the debt ceiling and other issues may have finally taken their toll.

“This is no doubt influenced by debt reduction talks, which now routinely include modifications to Medicare and Social Security as part of the solution,” McCarty said. “As there are no clear details about potential changes, some seniors are becoming unnerved. Their concerns are further fueled by wild swings in the stock market.”

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Dip in Florida Consumer Sentiment points toward recession - University of Florida News - August 30, 2011

More on this topic:

Florida's Consumer Sentiment nears record low - Miami Herald - August 30, 2011

Drop in Florida confidence says recession is probably underway - MiamiHerald.com - August 30, 2011

Floridians' Consumer Sentiment drops to near recession levels - Orlando Sentinel - August 30, 2011

Florida Consumer Sentiment at near-record low- Gainesville Sun - August 30, 2011

Floridians' confidence dip is overreaction, one economist says - Palm Beach Post - August 30, 2011

UF: Consumer Sentiment drops in August - Jacksonville Daily Record - August 31, 2011

Census: Florida is getting younger

Florida, once the nation's oldest state, is losing some of its gray.

Thanks to a lull in retiree migration and an increase in working-age adults, Florida has dropped three places to become the fifth-oldest state in the nation, according to census data released Thursday.

The figures show that over the past decade, residents ages 18 to 64 propelled Florida's growth in boom counties on the periphery of major metro areas, including Orlando and St. Petersburg.

At the same time, traditional retiree havens such as Broward and Pinellas counties lost seniors and gained working-age adults. Even Venice, with one of the state's oldest populations, saw its median age decrease by a little more than a year.

Gulf Coast counties with large numbers of retirees, such as Hernando and Pasco, saw their concentration of seniors diluted with the arrival of younger residents.

Retirees fuel most of Florida's growth, said Scott Cody, a demographer with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida. Typically, that keeps Florida's median age higher than most states.

In the late 2000s, however, the economic crash and real estate bust slowed Florida's growth considerably. Fewer retirees moving in may have slowed Florida's aging, Cody said.

Further, Florida growth has been augmented in recent years by international immigrants who may be younger than Florida's traditional retirees, Cody said.

"Clearly we're heavily dependent on in-migration and domestically, I'm pretty sure we're getting less older people. Internationally we might be getting younger people," Cody said.

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Census: Florida is getting younger - Herald-Tribune - August 18, 2011

Psyche will drive possible double-dip

The stock market's recent Tower of Terror routine — hair-raising free falls followed by a quick bounce back up — was enough to ramp up already heightened fears of a second recession. But unlike the Disney ride, the panic isn't coming to an end any time soon.

Concerns about a double-dip picked up momentum as the Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. debt and market drops gripped the nation with renewed anxiety.

Our psyche will play a big role in whether the economy will remain in its slow-motion recovery or, worse, slump into a true downturn.

Central Florida is still struggling to find its footing since the last recession technically ended in June 2009. How much lower can we go? Housing has already been wiped out. Consumer Sentiment is at historically low levels. And good jobs are harder to come by than a British tourist with a tan.

Here in Orlando, the recovery has been propped up by tourism. Local hospitality jobs are leading the state in job growth.

"It's pretty clear a big part of the recovery for Florida has been tourism," said Christopher McCarty, director of the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

McCarty said Orlando is "better positioned" than other areas of the state to weather another downturn because of tourism and impending health care-related jobs.

The scariest of the current economic indicators, however, is the dismal level of Consumer Sentiment.

McCarty, who measures Floridian's confidence every month, said the numbers are already in what would historically be considered recession territory. From June to July, confidence ticked up slightly from 67 to 69.

He expects the number for August to take another drop, setting the stage, perhaps, for an economic scenario similar to the double-dip experienced when the economy fell into a recession for seven months in 1980 and then again from 1981-82.

"Things like this have happened before, and we've had booms since then," McCarty said.

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Psyche will drive possible double-dip - Orlando Sentinel - August 9, 2011

Wrapping up your back-to-school shopping? It's tax savings time

Summer is nearly over, school supply lists are out and Florida's sales tax holiday runs Friday through Sunday, giving all shoppers a break from the 6.5 percent added to store receipts.

That break is limited, but the limits have been raised this year: clothing that costs $75 or less, up from $50 last year; and school supplies up to $15, up from $10. Books, however, have been removed from tax-exempt status.

Parents have the lists for school uniforms or acceptable fare and classroom supplies: khakis, cleats, pencils, notebooks, hand sanitizer, pair of ear buds. Even without the tax holiday, the back-to-school season is lucrative for retailers.

However, while the tax holiday concentrates on school shoppers, it also brings out people who just want a tax break. And retailers add on the deals and promotions, says Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Rick McAllister.

"No questions, looking at revenue numbers, the back-to-school holiday does have a stimulus effect on what is already a good shopping period in Florida," he said.

Retailers bank on the idea that people put non-tax-exempt items in their shopping baskets, too, and the numbers support that, McAllister said.

The National Retail Federation is predicting people nationwide will spend nearly $70 billion on back-to-school purchases. And Florida consumers in July showed a slight uptick in their outlook on spending money, according to the Florida Consumer Sentiment Index tracked each month by the University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

"Most of the increase can be attributed to an increase in optimism about whether it is a good time to buy. This component is now back to the level it was last fall," said BEBR's Chris McCarty. "Some of this may have to do with declines in gas prices during the month of June and much of July. This leaves more money in people's budget for other purchases."

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Wrapping up your back-to-school shopping? It's tax savings time - Palm Beach Post - August 8, 2011

BEBR evaluates population forecast errors for the state

In a new report, members of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) Population Program at the University of Florida investigate the accuracy of several sets of state and county population projections published by BEBR over the last 30 years.

The BEBR Population Program, under contract with the Florida Legislature, has been making three sets of population projections (low, medium, and high) for Florida and its counties for many years. Many decisions in both the public and private sectors are based on expectations of future population change. Planning for schools, hospitals, shopping centers, housing developments, electric power plants, and many other projects is strongly influenced by expected population growth or decline. The distribution of government funds and the granting of various types of licenses and permits may be affected as well. Given their many uses, it is essential to evaluate the accuracy of these projections.

Download this report at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/content/evaluation-population-forecast-errors-florida-and-its-counties-1980-2010

BEBR evaluates population estimates compared to census counts

The Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) Population Program has had a contract with the Florida Legislature since 1972 to produce annual population estimates for all cities, counties, and unincorporated areas within the state. These estimates are used for a wide variety of purposes by businesses, research analyst, and state and local governments. Furthermore, they are used for allocating more than $2 billion each year to city and county governments through Florida's revenue-sharing programs. Given their many uses, it is essential to evaluate the accuracy of these estimates.

In a recent report published by the BEBR Population Program, researchers describe the methodology used for making state and local population estimates in Florida and evaluate the accuracy of the 2010 estimates by comparing them with the results of the 2010 census. They also evaluate the accuracy of previous BEBR estimates and estimates produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The result of their findings can be viewed in the full report located at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/content/spr-no-8-evaluation-population-estimates-florida-april-1-2010

UF survey: Consumer Sentiment registers modest increase in July

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Increased optimism about making major purchases played a significant role in Consumer Sentiment rising two points in July to 68, according to a new University of Florida survey.

Four of the five components that make up the index increased or remained unchanged. The biggest improvement was in confidence to purchase big-ticket items such as cars and appliances which rose five points to 77.

“Some of this may have to do with declines in gas prices during the month of June and much of July,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “This leaves more money in people’s budgets for other purchases.”

The other index components that rose were perceptions of personal finances now compared with a year ago, which increased three points to 57, and expectations of personal finances a year from now, which climbed one point to 75. Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years remained at 72. The only component to decline was perceptions of U.S. economic conditions over the next year, which fell one point to 59.

McCarty said another reason for the increase was improved confidence among seniors, which rose five points to 66. Last month’s overall decline, McCarty said, was due in large part to seniors’ uncertainty over potential cuts to Medicare and Social Security. Although the federal government has not yet released its budget plans, the delay in reducing those programs may have led to a slight improvement. McCarty also said seniors may have learned that proposed entitlement cuts might not affect those in or near retirement as much as previously thought.

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UF survey: Consumer Sentiment registers modest increase in July - University of Florida News - July 26, 2011

More on this topic:

Florida Consumer Sentiment up in July - South Florida Business Journal - July 26, 2011

State Consumer Sentiment improves slightly - Gainesville Sun - July 26, 2011

Floridians feel a little better about the economy, but remain almost as gloomy as ever - Miami Herald - July 26, 2011

State's Consumer Sentiment rises with summer's drop in gas prices - SunSentinel.com - July 26, 2011

Debt crisis frustrates area residents

WASHINGTON — With the clock ticking down, our leaders still haven't cut a deal on the debt ceiling. Boynton Beach retiree Gerald Levine, 80, believes he knows exactly who's to blame. The problem is: it's a long list.

"If I had my druthers, I'd fire everybody in Washington," he said Wednesday. "Here we are, two weeks away from a default, which would be an economic disaster of immeasurable proportion, and they think it's a joke."

Levine's view may seem drastic, yet a new poll shows that Americans as a whole have little confidence in our elected officials to lead during this financial crisis.

A third or fewer Americans have even a fair amount of confidence in any of the top five congressional leaders, in a Pew Research/Washington Post poll. President Obama made out a little better with 48 percent of those surveyed expressing a fair amount or a great deal of confidence in his ability to broker a deal to stave off default.

The debt deadlock isn't just affecting the way we view our leaders. It's affecting the way we the view the country's economic prospects.

Last month, just as talk of debt ceiling began to heat up, Florida's Consumer Sentiment fell to the lowest levels since the BP oil spill seemed destined to destroy miles of Sunshine State beaches. Before that, the last time confidence fell this low was in 2008 as Lehman Brothers was collapsing and "the financial world was unraveling," said Chris McCarty, director of Bureau of Economic and Business Research at University of Florida.

A new reading is due out next week, and McCarty expects it to fall again - with good reason.

Few states can claim a bigger stake in the deficit debate than Florida. The Sunshine State ranks second in the nation in Medicare clients, with nearly 3.4 million residents receiving benefits. It also ranks second in Social Security recipients with nearly 3.8 million. Both programs are slated to take a hit in comprehensive plans being floated around Congress.

"If you're a senior and you're on a fixed income, it becomes difficult for you to look ahead and say 'Well, I'm going to be better off next year,' " McCarty said.

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Debt crisis frustrates area residents - Palm Beach Post - July 20, 2011