FORT LAUDERDALE — Cruise up coastal highway A1A. Take in the sea breeze, the sand and surf shimmering in the sun, the palm trees swaying beside luxury high-rise hotels, shops and cafes. The idyllic image helps explain why millions have come to Florida to play, and millions have come back to stay.
Drive a few blocks inland — past fading strip malls and fast-food joints — and a jolting new reality emerges. The parking lot of a career counseling center along Oakland Park Boulevard is jammed. There aren't enough counselors to advise hundreds of jobless people who come through the doors every day.
The recession has dealt a whopping blow to the fourth-most-populous state. Unemployment is soaring. Florida is second to California in foreclosures.
Last month came the most jaw-dropping announcement of all: The state that made population growth the linchpin of its economy for more than 60 years lost a net 58,000 people this year, according to newly released estimates for April 1.
For the first time since the end of World War II, when hundreds of thousands of military personnel stationed in Florida went home, the state lost population in the past year, according to the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. For the first time since Florida became a state in 1845, more people are moving out of the state than in, according to Census numbers and moving company reports.
State sees people leaving - Daytona Beach News Journal - September 2, 2009
A Magnet No More: Florida's Population Shrinks - NPR - September 4, 2009
Recession: Rude awaking to Florida dream - Pensacola News Journal - September 6, 2009