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Legislature produced few direct jobs this session

TALLAHASSEE — When state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott talk about their priorities, creating jobs in Florida always ranks at the top. But by the end of the 2011 legislative session last week, state leaders could point to little in the mountain of bills passed that will provide immediate help for Florida's struggling economy.

Lawmakers passed sweeping reforms on issues ranging from health care to education and state pensions. They passed bills restricting abortion, promoting gun rights, rewriting election laws and reforming the state Supreme Court.

But when it came to creating jobs, state leaders cited vague concepts like government deregulation and tax incentives as top achievements, though economists say they will do almost nothing to get Floridians back to work over the next year.

And with nearly $4 billion in cuts to the state budget, many lawmakers say the net effect of the 2011 session on Florida's economy will be a negative one, at least initially.

Thousands of teachers, health workers and government employees at all levels will be laid off as the largest budget cut in state history takes affect.


Haridopolos said the federal stimulus program “did not work,” but University of Florida economist David Denslow said infrastructure spending is one of the few proven short-term job creators at the state's disposal.

“It creates jobs in the short run and the long run because businesses benefit from the improved infrastructure,” he said.

On the other hand, deregulation and tax cuts — while potentially beneficial in the long run, if done properly — will have almost no short-term benefits, Denslow said.

“The reason people aren't starting new businesses is not so much a matter of regulation and red tape but because the demand, the customers, just aren't there,” Denslow said.

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Legislature produced few direct jobs this session - Gainesville Sun - May 8, 2011

New census numbers show Palm Beach County's 85-plus crowd grows 41%

Taking a break from his poolside card game at the Century Village retirement community near West Palm Beach, 87-year-old Lou Hazan tried to offer some insights into the modern octogenarian lifestyle while the other players razzed him. "Sometimes it's a little hard trying to find a woman that's about 20 years younger than me," said Hazan, a widower who moved to South Florida about 15 years ago. Born before talking movies or transatlantic flight or Herbert Hoover's presidency, Hazan and others in the 85-and-older crowd are one of the fastest growing segments of Palm Beach County's population, according to a new batch of 2010 Census data that breaks down Florida's population by age.

The new figures show Palm Beach County now has Florida's largest number of people who are 85 and older -- 49,205. Ten years ago those bragging rights belonged to Miami-Dade County. Although Palm Beach County's overall population grew 16.7 percent between 2000 and 2010, its 85-plus population grew 40.7 percent. Palm Beach County now has 99,849 people who are 80 and older - nearly the same number as the city of West Palm Beach has residents.

The number of older seniors has soared, but seniors as a whole are a declining portion of Palm Beach County's population. The number of county residents who are 65 and older grew 8.8 percent between 2000 and 2010, a slower rate of growth than the countywide average. Seniors are now 21.6 percent of the county population, down from 23.2 percent in 2000 and 24.3 percent in 1990.

Advances in medicine and overall health, meanwhile, mean that Palm Beach County and other places can expect to see growing numbers of the so-called "old elderly," said Stan Smith, director of University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

"It's the old elderly that are the fastest growing segment of the population," Smith said. "Certainly that has a lot of social and probably fiscal implications."

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New census numbers show Palm Beach County's 85-plus crowd grows 41% - Palm Beach Post - May 5, 2011

Women gaining ground as dominant demographic

THE VILLAGES — She is around 67.8 years of age, and the numbers of her demographic the past 10 years grew proportionally faster in The Villages than those of her male counterpart. Meet Heide Eide and her fun Village of Largo friends and neighbors — Jane Gracan, Carmela D’Aloisio and Susan Sarlo — the face of The Villages, newly released 2010 census data suggests. At age 67, Eide fits perfectly into the median age bracket for women in The Villages Census Designated Place, the U.S. Census Bureau announced this morning in an embargoed information release.

The data released this morning appears fairly consistent with Florida’s population estimates, said Stefan Rayer, Ph.D., a demographer at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida. “You would expect the median to go up, because of the aging of the population and the retiring of the baby boomers,” Rayer said. Florida’s median age was 40.7, the newly released Census data showed. It was 38.8 in the 2000 census.

“Median is just a snapshot,” Rayer cautioned. “You could have a growing proportion of younger and older and still get an increasing median age.”

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Women gaining ground as dominant demographic - The Villages Daily Sun - May 5, 2011

Florida's population getting older, but state isn't graying without company

Florida's population — already among the oldest in the country — is getting even older, but the rest of the nation is not too far behind.

New census data shows Florida's median population was 40.7 in 2010, two years older than in 2000. The increase reflects both the state's continuing allure for retirees, and the aging of the nation's largest generation: the baby boomers.

The statewide trends were mirrored locally in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties, with one city breaking the mold. Venice — one of the oldest cities in the nation — actually got a little younger.

Since the early 1950s, Florida has been a retirement destination for large portions of the Northeast and Midwest, making its median age higher than the rest of the nation as a whole.

Florida's median age — the point at which half the population is older and half younger — is about 4 years above the national median. And Florida has a higher population of people older than 65, said Stefan Rayer, demographer with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.

"On both of those measures, Florida is one of the oldest states and that's, to a large extent, obviously, because it attracts a lot of retirees," Rayer said.

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Florida's population getting older, but state isn't graying without company - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - May 5, 2011

Floridians’ Consumer Sentiment falls for third straight month

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumer Sentiment among Floridians dropped for a third consecutive month — falling to 68 in April — as the economy struggles because of domestic budget woes, soaring gas prices and international unrest, according to a new University of Florida survey.

Four of the index’s five components decreased, including perceptions of personal financial situation expected a year from now, which fell 11 points to 69, a record low. That’s the largest single-month decline in that component since July 1990, when tensions in the Middle East and an oncoming recession led to a similar decline.

The speculation, said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, was that the sharp decrease was created by “seniors who are increasingly hearing deficit-reduction plans that include Medicare, and low-income households who at the state level are anticipating cuts to Medicaid and other programs.” But a closer look at the survey results indicates the decline in confidence is more widespread.

“A further examination of the data shows that the component declined across all categories and dropped 17 points among respondents under age 60,” McCarty said. “It appears that the public is beginning to understand that budget cuts at the state level and deficit reduction at the national level will likely affect everyone in the U.S., young and old, rich and poor.”

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Floridians’ Consumer Sentiment falls for third straight month - University of Florida News - April 26, 2011

More on this topic:

Gas prices hurt Consumer Sentiment in Florida - Miami Herald - April 26, 2011

Gloom spreads in Florida as gas prices rise and budget cuts near - Miami Herald - Business - April 26, 2011

Consumer Sentiment in Florida falls again - Orlando Sentinel - April 26, 2011

Floridians' confidence falls for third month - Sarasota Herald Tribune - April 26, 2011

Economic confidence lacking in Florida - Daytona Beach News-Journal - April 27, 2011

Consumer Sentiment falls - Gulf Coast Business Review - April 27, 2011

Florida’s Consumer Sentiment wanes as events unravel overseas

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumer Sentiment among Floridians dropped four points in March to 72 as many economic indicators for Florida continue to show signs of weakness, according to a new University of Florida survey.

Three of the index components decreased as natural disasters and political turmoil overseas offset the index’s seven-point spike in January.

“There has been a lot of news in March for consumers to process,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

“The unrest in the Middle East and North Africa has been both inspirational and unnerving. The deteriorating circumstances in Libya have been of enormous concern both due to U.S. involvement and the effect on oil production. The earthquake in Japan raises questions about the stability of Japanese products, companies with a base in Japan, as well as reflection on the safety of our own nuclear-based power grid.”

McCarty also said gas prices, which had already been on their way up prior to these events, are likely to continue rising due to potential shortages from Libya, offline refineries in Japan, increased demand from China and India and seasonal increases as the summer approaches.

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Florida’s Consumer Sentiment wanes as events unravel overseas - University of Florida News - March 29, 2011

More on this topic:

Gas prices, turmoil weigh on Floridians - South Florida Business Journal - March 29, 2011

Consumer mood sours amid global turmoil - Miami Herald - March 29, 2011

Consumer Sentiment in Florida, nation drops sharply - St. Petersburg Times - March 29, 2011

Consumer Sentiment drops across state, nation - Gainesville Sun - March 29, 2011

After two months of feeling better, consumers in Florida sour a bit - March 29, 2011

Central Florida economy waking from long nightmare

On the third shelf of Tim's Wine Market in Orlando, you can find a full-bodied cabernet and a compelling snapshot of the region's economy.

Four years back — before the economic collapse — such $100 wines occupied this piece of prime, retail real estate. By early 2009, the shelf held inventory of more humble means — generally $30 to $40 a bottle. Today, the higher-priced stuff is returning.

The shop's "third-shelf index" is part of a growing body of evidence that suggests the region's economy is inching toward recovery. The trip is long and fraught with risk, but bits of progress are scattered across Central Florida like glittering, fragile pieces of hope.

There is rising Consumer Sentiment, more tourists and a slow increase in jobs. There are new car dealerships and a flurry of restaurants working to come online. And for the first time since the recession officially ended, there is a tangible — if vulnerable — sense of promise.

Consumer Sentiment is improving, but consumers remain emotionally brittle. Like overtired toddlers, they do fine when the news is good. But any bad news — "My juice box is empty!"; "The Middle East is on fire!" — can spark a tantrum.

People's short-term expectations are sensitive to events such as the disaster in Japan, said Chris McCarty, director of the University of Florida's Survey Research Center.

"But fortunately," he said, "those things tend to be erased pretty quickly."

In February, McCarty found Floridians almost giddy — at least by recent standards. For the second month in a row, Consumer Sentiment hit 77 on a 150-point scale, a "dramatic increase" over what McCarty has seen in the past three years.

It was particularly significant that the reading held steady for two months. That, said McCarty, makes it much less likely that the score was an aberration.

UF will release new numbers this week, and McCarty said he won't be surprised if world events mute confidence. Nevertheless, he said, the trend "is definitely creeping up."

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Central Florida economy waking from long nightmare - Orlando Sentinel - March 26, 2011

2010 CENSUS: Owners of second homes in Florida often are not here for the count

The numbers do not look good. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 17 percent of the homes in Florida are vacant - the second-highest vacancy rate in the nation behind Vermont. And in Palm Beach County it's worse - 18 percent of the homes are vacant.

But the Census Bureau's definition of "vacant" is much different than the definition found in the dictionary. According to its 193-page instruction manual, "housing units temporarily occupied at the time of enumeration entirely by individuals who have a usual residence elsewhere are classified as vacant."

That means second homes are considered vacant even if the owner lives there during the winter months. In Florida, about 8 percent of the homes were second homes, according to the 2000 Census. Ten percent of the homes in Palm Beach County were automatically considered vacant in the 2000 Census because they were seasonal, second homes.

Even though Florida ranks third in foreclosure filings, with one of every 18 homes in some stage of foreclosure, the vacancy data released by the Census last week are misleading, said Stan Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida. The Census has not yet released information on the number of seasonal and second homes counted in the 2010 Census.

"At this point in time the vacancy statistics are misleading because they are including homes that are not truly vacant," Smith said. "In Florida we have a lot of snowbirds with homes on the beach and we have a higher proportion of units of that type than found in states that don't have a lot of seasonal residents."

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2010 CENSUS: Owners of second homes in Florida often are not here for the count - Palm Beach Post - March 23, 2011

More on this topic:

Highlands housing survey finds 12,000 vacant homes - Highlands Today - March 28, 2011

Census Q&A with Dr. Stan Smith

TAMPA (2011-3-17) -

Even with a flagging economy, people keep moving to Florida. Dr. Stan Smith is the Director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.

He said that is important because the numbers help to determine the number of state representatives in Congress. Florida picked up 2 because of the 2010 Census.

He said Pinellas County is one of only two counties in the state to lose population in the past decade. Smith said that is because there is not much room for growth in that county and it has a relatively old population with more deaths than births.

Florida grew by nearly 3 million people in the past ten years. Smith expects it to surpass New York to become the third most populous state in the nation in the coming 4 to 5 years.

Listen to the interview:

Census Q&A with Dr. Stan Smith - WUSF 89.7 News - March 17, 2011

Census: Hispanic population propels growth in Fla. in past decade

The share of Hispanics living in Florida grew by almost 60 percent over the past decade as the percentage of white residents declined slightly and the proportion of blacks and Asians inched up, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census.

Hispanics now make up 22.5 percent of Florida's 18.8 million residents, up from 16.7 percent of Floridians in 2000, when the state only had 15.9 million residents, the Census data showed.

Non-Hispanic whites now make up 57.8 percent of Florida's population in 2010, down from 66 percent of the population in 2000. Their numbers grew by just under a half -million residents to 10.8 million people, the Census showed.

The non-Hispanic black population grew by more than 586,000 residents, so that they now make up 15.2 percent of the population, up from 14.1 percent of the population in 2000.

Asians now make up 2.4 percent of Florida's residents, or more than 454,000 people, up from 1.6 percent in 2000.

Florida's overall population increased by 2.8 million from 2000 to 2010. The decade was powered by rapid growth in the first half but it ended with tepid migration to the state, a result of a housing bust and the recession. The growth, however, was in the same ballpark as the 3 million to 3.2 million person increase seen in the previous three decades, said Stan Smith, an economics professor at the University of Florida.

"That might be surprising to people," Smith said. "Because of the tremendous slowdown of the last couple of years, that causes them to forget the very high growth that we saw in the early and middle part of the decade. When you add that together, you get a decade that really isn't too much different in terms of population growth."

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Census: Hispanic population propels growth in Fla. in past decade - The Republic - March 17, 2011

More on this topic:

Share of Latinos in Fla. up by 60 percent - Miami Herald - March 17. 2011

Hispanics powered Florida's population growth since 2000, census shows - Orlando Sentinel - March 18, 2011

Census: Hispanics fueled Manatee’s growth - - March 18, 2011