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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


Florida growth outpaces national trend

Most of Florida's largest counties and cities grew more rapidly than the nation since 2000, according to 2010 Census data released Thursday.

"It's a story of two different half-decades," says Stanley Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida. "The first half was so great that it made up for any decline of the past few years."

Despite record foreclosures and high unemployment, Florida still grew 17.6% to 18.8 million, well above the 9.7% national rate.

It's a testament to the runaway growth the state enjoyed in the early 2000s, which slowed in 2007 and came to a screeching halt in 2008. Annual growth that had peaked at 2.3% in 2005 fell to 0.5% in 2009 and 0.7% in 2010.

Flagler County, north of Daytona Beach, was the fastest-growing county, up 92% to 95,696. Sumter County, home of The Villages retirement community in central Florida, grew 75% to 93,420, and Osceola County, just south of Orlando, grew 56% to 268,685.

Even larger and more densely developed areas gained: Miami-Dade, the largest county, up 11% to 2.5 million; Jacksonville, the largest city, up almost 12% to 821,784.

St. Petersburg and its county, Pinellas, were among the rare decliners. The state's fourth-largest city lost 1.4% of its population since 2000, down to 245,000. Pinellas fell 0.5% to 916,542.

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Florida growth outpaces national trend - USA Today - March 17, 2011

More on this topic:

Census data tells story of a complex decade - Herald-Tribune - March 17, 2011

Central Florida led state in growth since 2000, census shows - Orlando Sentinel - March 17, 2011

Treasure Coast adds more than 129,000 people since 2000, 2010 Census shows - TCPalm - March 17, 2011

As Mideast turmoil continues, gas prices go up

Local travelers are consolidating road trips and booking flights early as a result of higher gas prices that have economists worried about the affects on the economic recovery if recent spikes continue.

Further increases would lead consumers to cut discretionary spending even as businesses are faced with higher delivery costs. The political turmoil in Libya is getting the blame for the 23-cents-a-gallon hike in gasoline prices nationwide over the past week.

The price in Gainesville averaged $3.453 for a gallon of regular unleaded Sunday, up nearly 21 cents from a week ago and 29 cents from a month ago, according to AAA. Last year at this time, the price was $2.831.

Consumer spending habits have not changed dramatically yet, with $4 gas being the psychological barrier in 2008, said Chris McCarty, who conducts the University of Florida Consumer Sentiment survey.

Even without the effects of Libya, he pointed out that prices can be expected to rise further as summer approaches and may not ever return to $3 because of demand from developing nations such as China and India.

"I don't know what happens when it goes up to $5," he said. "Look at a place like Europe where cars are a lot smaller."

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As Mideast turmoil continues, gas prices go up - Gainesville Sun - February 28, 2011

Floridians remain confident about economy for second consecutive month

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumer Sentiment among Floridians remained at 77 out of 100 in February further demonstrating the public’s positive view of the economy, according to a new University of Florida survey.

The index rose seven points last month, an unexpected increase considering the economic climate in Florida. That the index didn’t change dramatically after January’s increase is noteworthy.

“We had expected a correction to last month’s seven-point increase in Consumer Sentiment,” said Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “A second month at this high level makes it much less likely that the increase for January was an aberration and more likely that consumers view the economy and their personal economic situation as having improved.”

McCarty said several factors are contributing to Floridians’ increased optimism, and at the top of the list is the bull market in stocks that are lifting portfolios. Another factor, McCarty said, is that those nearing retirement age whose 401(k) accounts were almost halved by the recession have mostly recovered those losses.

Work wages have shown steady improvement and the stimulus agreement, passed by Congress at the end of last year, is now appearing in workers’ paychecks, increasing optimism about personal finances, McCarty said. Inflation has remained in check, McCarty said, but high inflation could resurface by the summer. Gas prices have begun to rise again and are expected to keep rising, as are prices for basic food items like wheat and corn, McCarty said.

“At 77, the index represents a dramatic improvement over Consumer Sentiment for the past three years,” McCarty said. “The one exception was April 2010, when a confluence of tax rebates artificially lifted confidence. It fell in the following months as those programs ended and the Gulf oil spill raised pessimism. This month, the sustained higher level of confidence is more broadly based and is an indicator that consumers are seeing some stability in the overall economy.”

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Floridians remain confident about economy for second consecutive month - University of Florida News - February 22, 2011

More on this topic:

Florida Consumer Sentiment remains high - St. Petersburg Times - February 22, 2011

Floridians’ confidence in economy holds steady - South Florida Business Journal - February 22, 2011

High Consumer Sentiment no fluke, holds steady - Gainesville Sun - February 22, 2011

Fla. Consumer Sentiment remains high in Feb. - Miami Herald - February 23, 2011

Floridians Remain Confident About Economy for Second Consecutive Month - Florida Trend - February 23, 2011

Statistics show trying times ahead

To get a real sense of just how much hard work has to be done to fire up Escambia County's economy, take a look at the latest numbers from the Florida Statistical Abstract.

This is data drawn from the 2010 U.S. Census results and the Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research. Overall, Escambia County's economic profile fares poorly when compared with the 25 largest counties in the Sunshine State. These top 25 counties constitute 85 percent of the state's population; Escambia ranks 18th on that list, with a population of in excess of 303,000.

By comparison, Escambia is not in the top 10 in any of the major categories when ranked best to worst, with worst being 25th.

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Statistics show trying times ahead - Pensacola Business Journal - February 20, 2011

Scott now has to deliver on job growth

TAMPA, Fla. -- Rick Scott successfully ran for governor as the jobs candidate, selling the voters a mostly vague plan to create 700,000 new ones in the next seven years.

Now the political rookie and tea-party darling has to get to work and push through his strong business-friendly agenda, which includes reducing the corporate income tax, slashing property taxes and dramatically reducing the size of state government. He vows to make Florida the cheapest and easiest place in the nation to do business, figuring that thousands of new jobs will follow.

The wealthy former CEO's first year in office will be a test of whether he can get the Legislature to go along with his plans, and how much influence a modern governor has to significantly alter a state's economy.

"The more money we put back into the private sector, that's what's going to grow jobs," Scott insisted recently. "We're going to grow private sector jobs, and the only way you can do that is by holding government accountable."

Already lawmakers - even Scott's fellow Republicans - are skeptical. They say his budget proposal, which cuts taxes, state jobs and services, is unrealistic when they are forced to grapple with a $3.6 billion shortfall.

Scott's office has made it clear that his campaign promise to create 700,000 jobs is on top of the million or so new ones projected to come as the state emerges from the recession, although economists say that when the dust settles it will be next to impossible to discern which ones are a result of the governor's policies.

In the unlikely event his budget were to be passed as proposed, Scott would already start 8,700 jobs in the hole - that's how many state positions he's proposed cutting as part of his government downsizing plans. But lawmakers are expected to have plenty so say about that, especially those from north Florida districts where state prison jobs loom large in the local culture. Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich dismissed the governor's proposals as "retreaded voodoo economics."

David Denslow, a research economist at the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, doubts Scott can do what he's promised. The Legislature has a greater ability to direct change than the governor, Denslow said, and other factors besides government policy - such as local growth regulations and national trends - also will influence the rate of job growth.

Additionally, Florida is competing for industry with the rest of the relatively business-friendly Southeastern states, so it has a harder time standing out from the rest.

"If it winds up at the end of seven years that these policies have created another 350,000 jobs instead of 700,000 - and they're relatively high-quality jobs - then I would applaud," Denslow said.

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Scott now has to deliver on job growth - Miami Herald - February 21, 2011



Line in the sand

The Obama Administration may have opposed Arizona’s immigration law, but many other states are looking to enact something similar, including Florida.

They must. Because most everyone at the state level knows that the current U.S. immigration system is busted and the federal government won’t do anything. So even non-border states such as South Carolina, Michigan, Rhode Island and Minnesota are pushing their own immigration legislation similar to Arizona’s.

The Florida Legislature begins to draw its own line in the sand with the introduction of Senate Bill 136, sponsored by state Senate President Pro-tempore Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton. A bill from Sen. Anita Flores, R-Miami, or Rep. Will Snyder, R-Stuart, however, could later replace his bill.

“At the end of the day,” says Bennett, “I think we will have a bill to push illegal people out of the country, secure the borders and not have racial profiling to harass good American citizens or those who are here legally.” Bennett also wants to be sure foreign tourists with legitimate passports don’t encounter problems with law enforcement.

What that illegal population costs or benefits the state and its local governments is not completely clear. The last fairly comprehensive study of the issue in Florida dates back to a 1993-94 study to identify costs incurred by the state and local governments and other organizations since 1980.

That study assumed that Florida’s non-U.S. citizen residents — euphemistically referred to in the study as “Newcomers” — use or benefit from local government services at the same rate as the U.S. citizen population.

Another study completed in November 2001 by University of Florida and University of Miami population experts, “… concluded that foreign-born Florida residents are generally learning English at the same pace as immigrants early in the 20th century, are paying their fair share of state and local taxes, are becoming citizens and intermarrying with U.S. natives and are catching up to average American income levels within 15 years of arriving.”

Published by UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, the study was “ … designed to answer key questions raised in Florida’s debate over immigration, including how immigrants compare to the U.S.-born in terms of income, education, and other measures.”

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Line in the sand - Gulf Coast Business Review - January 27, 2011

Business research bureau’s population estimate was spot on

An estimate of Florida’s population conducted by a UF research center was accurate within two tenths of a percent in comparison with the actual U.S. Census Bureau’s counts released for 2010.

The Bureau of Economic and Business Research, part of UF’s Warrington College of Business Administration, found Florida’s population to be 18,772,352, only a slight difference to the census’s count of 18,801,310 people.

According to Stanley Smith, the bureau’s program director and UF economics professor, estimates in years past fell around percentage errors of 1.6 to 1.8 percent. This year’s difference is the lowest the bureau has ever reached.

“It validates our methodology,” Smith said. “It shows that what we’ve been doing has been very accurate, probably about as accurate as you can get.”

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Business research bureau’s population estimate was spot on - The Independent Florida Alligator - January 26, 2011