BEBR in the news

Area restaurants fall victim to economy

A Haile Plantation restaurant and a steak and seafood house on Newberry Road could not outlast the economic plunge and are closing — part of a nationwide, Florida and Gainesville-area trend.

Both cited the economy and rising costs as the primary reason.

Economists said dining out is one of the little luxuries in life that gets cut when the economy heads south.

Some people eat out less frequently when times are hard, or scale down to less costly fast-food places.

David Denslow, research economist for the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida, said the bureau is working on a study of consumer habits in troubled times.

"Which would be more likely to close — the upscale or the lower end? We're working on something related to that now," Denslow said. "You would think there would be more failing in a down time. Right now they pretty much have everything going against them.

"Florida has been in a recession since May of last year, and then you have the gasoline prices. That hits them on two fronts — it gives people less discretionary income and it hits the restaurants on the cost side."

Area restaurants fall victim to economy - Gainesville Sun - July 25, 2008

The CPI may be right, believe it or not

Reinaldo Alfonso looks at prices at the gas pump and the grocery store, then he looks at the government's official inflation rate, and the numbers just don't jibe.

''How can it be 5 percent?'' scoffed Alfonso, owner of a Miami landscaping company, after the Labor Department announced that inflation figure on Wednesday. ``I think they're lying about it.''

He isn't the only one.

In fact, while most economists seem to think the monthly Consumer Price Index is an accurate measure of inflation, the index has some vocal critics. Most recently, political commentator Kevin Phillips caused a stir in an article asserting that the government has tinkered with the CPI and other key economic numbers over the years to paint a rosy picture.

University of Florida economist David Denslow agrees with Bureau of Labor Statistics retired economist Patrick Jackman who contends that changes in the index came from careful study and discussion among economists, not political pressure from higher-ups. ''In the U.S., we have a wall between those official numbers and politics,'' Denslow said. In an e-mail, Denslow refuted each of Phillips' complaints about the methods of calculating CPI, adding that many of the changes have been supported by scientific study.

The CPI may be right, believe it or not - Miami Herald - July 23, 2008

Report: Housing not ready for aging population

USA TODAY'S Haya El Nasser reports that The Journal of the American Planning Association is warning that the nation's housing is not equipped to handle a fast-growing population of elderly.

By 2050, it says, elderly will make up 21% of the population vs. 12% in 2000. In addition, 21% of households in 2050 will have at least one disabled resident and 7% will have at least one who cannot fully take care of himself or herself.

The authors, including Florida state demographer Stanley Smith, say the housing industry better take heed: there is a 60% probability that a newly built single-family house will be home to at least one disabled resident in its lifetime.

Report: Housing not ready for aging population - USA Today - July 22, 2008

Florida's economic downturn is likely to last another year

Economic recovery is on the way — at least according to one expert.

The economic downturn is actually a recession for Florida, in the view of University of Florida economist David Denslow at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

His prediction: The economy will show little growth or a decline of perhaps 2 percent or 3 percent in gross domestic product until the recovery begins in mid-2009.

Denslow figures the recession began in March 2007, which would make it about as long as the recession the state went through in the early 1990s.

Florida's economic downturn is likely to last another year - Sun-Sentinel - July 14, 2008

Rush to Florida slows to trickle

TAMPA - For years, Tampa Bay welcomed thousands of new residents who fueled a frenetic real estate climate and one of the fastest-growing job markets in the country.Those days seem long-gone now.

A U.S. Census report released Thursday shows population growth from 2006 to 2007 has slowed considerably for many of Florida's municipalities, including Tampa.It's a trend some economists predict will continue through 2010.

Demographers, economists and city leaders say reasons for the sputtering growth are easy to identify: a national housing slump and record job losses, especially from the construction and housing industry.

But don't rule out the short-term impact of hurricanes, something that can influence an economic forecast, Lafakis said.

According to the U.S. census, New Orleans had the largest rate of population loss since 2000 and turned around as the fastest-growing large city in the nation after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Florida certainly has experienced all of the above.

"Clearly, our growth is not as strong," said Scott Cody, a demographer with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.

The bureau tracks the state's annual growth beginning in April. So far, Florida is on track for close to 1 percent growth in 2007, Cody said. While that's a big change from the boom years, it's important to note the state is still growing, he said.

"When you compare Florida's growth to other states', even at our lowest it's still high," he said. "We're just used to being one of the fastest growing."

Rush To Florida Slows To Trickle - Tampa Tribune - July 11, 2008

27 of 38 cities in Palm Beach County lost residents

Most of Palm Beach County's 38 municipalities lost residents last year but so far, there is no exodus.

Twenty-seven of the county's communities had more people moving out than in for a total loss of 2,238 from 2006 to 2007, according to U.S. Census estimates released today. Broward County didn't fare so well, as 15,000 people total relocated from cities that lost population.

"At some point, these plateaus have to happen — they are reflective of international events and trends, like gas prices," Jim Murley, director of the Catanese Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions at Florida Atlantic University, said of the Palm Beach County numbers. "It doesn't surprise me."

Demographers say those who are leaving represent a combination of immigrants who use South Florida as a way station before relocating to less expensive areas, Baby Boomers who are retiring to Tennessee or North Carolina where they can live more cheaply, seniors who move in with relatives up North and young people who can't afford to buy in South Florida.

"We're seeing a lot of places in Florida that are going down as a result of the bursting of the housing bubble and the substantial slowdown in the economy and job creation," said Stan Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.

27 of 38 cities in Palm Beach County lost residents - South Florida Sun-Sentinel - July 9, 2008

Other stories on this topic:
Population drops in 26 of 31 Broward municipalities - South Florida Sun-Sentinel - July 9, 2008
City's population inches up nearly 1% - Gainesville Sun - July 12, 2008

When will it end? Economic observers say Florida's downturn likely will last another year

Recession for another year, rising unemployment and $4.10-a-gallon gasoline, too? You might say this is getting to be difficult.

The questions now, at the mid-point of 2008, are: How long will these troubled economic times last? How far down will the economy go? And how many people will be able to hold on to their jobs while they wait for the economy to recover?

Here's what economic analysts say are the answers: The downturn will continue for another year, according to some of Florida's best-known economic forecasters. Joblessness could rise by as much as another half percentage point, to 6 percent, before it levels off.

And the predictions point to mid-2009 as the point at which the economy begins to perk up.

The downturn is actually a recession for the state, in the view of University of Florida economist David Denslow at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. His prediction: The economy will show little growth or a decline of perhaps 2 percent or 3 percent in gross domestic product until the recovery begins in mid-2009.

Denslow figures the recession began in March 2007, which would make it about as long as the recession the state went through in the early 1990s. A similar view is held by forecasters for the Florida Legislature, who in April issued a report saying that "normal economic growth" isn't expected until mid-2009.

When will it end? Economic observers say Florida's downturn likely will last another year - Sun-Sentinel - July 7, 2008

New standards needed for elderly, disabled to remain in homes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — “Build it and they will stay” would be wise policy with today’s growing number of elderly and disabled people who want to remain in their own homes, a new University of Florida study finds.

By planning ahead, homes built now with features that meet the needs of people who have difficulty getting around will prevent more costly retrofitting in the future and perhaps avoid the trauma of moving to a retirement home, said Stan Smith, director of UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research and the study’s lead author.

“With the aging of the baby boomers, it’s pretty clear that the number of people who absolutely need these features to continue living in their own homes will rise substantially over the next several decades,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are relatively few single-family houses that will be able to accommodate them.”

New standards needed for elderly, disabled to remain in homes - University of Florida News - June 30, 2008

Florida Consumer Sentiment plunges to 25-year low

Floridians' confidence in the economy and their own personal finances is the lowest it has ever been in the 25-year history of the Florida Consumer Sentiment Index.

The index plunged to 57 as all five of its components fell, the University of Florida Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported today. The worst showing was for perceptions of whether it is a good time to buy big-ticket items.

"These are by far the worst readings we have ever seen," said Chris McCarty, director of the bureau's survey research center. "There is no other way to interpret these numbers other than to say that Florida consumers are hurting. Based on these results, I would have to predict consumer spending in Florida to pull back dramatically in the coming months."

On a positive note, McCarty said he doesn't expect the index to decline much more in the near future and says it should start improvement when gas prices pull back.

Florida Consumer Sentiment plunges to 25-year low - St. Petersburg Times - June 24, 2008

More on this topic:

Florida Consumer Sentiment Index Falls to Lowest Rate in Its History - AScribe Newswire - June 24, 2008
Consumer Sentiment plunges; South Florida home prices take hit - Palm Beach Post - June 24, 2008
Consumer Sentiment hits new lows - South Florida Business Journal - June 24, 2008
Florida Consumer Sentiment at lowest level in 25 years - South Florida Sun-Sentinel - June 25, 2008
Florida's Consumer Sentiment hits new low - Miami Herald - June 25, 2008
Florida's Consumer Sentiment low - Tallahassee Democrat - June 25, 2008
Consumer Sentiment in Florida sinks to all-time low in June - Orlando Sentinel - June 25, 2008
Experts hope we've seen the worst of downswing - Florida Today - June 25, 2008
Consumer Sentiment hits low - Herald Tribune - June 26, 2008

Will victims abandon Iowa cities?

Cedar Rapids, Ia. - This city's future is riding on people like Stella Wilson, and national experts say there is reason for hope.

Wilson is among more than 25,000 Cedar Rapids residents who were forced from their homes this month by historic flooding. That's a fifth of the city's population, and it leaves leaders worrying about how many will pull up stakes.

Stanley Smith, a University of Florida economics professor who studies population trends, said natural disasters tend to cause short-term population losses, but they can be reversed.

He said studies show that people deciding whether to rebuild or leave are strongly influenced by the likelihood that a similar catastrophe could happen again.

People in an area like Cedar Rapids are more likely to stay if they see the government moving quickly and seriously to improve flood-control systems, Smith said. That probably would hold true even if they had to pay higher taxes to help finance the improvements, he said.

Cedar Rapids has an advantage over areas prone to hurricanes, he said, because people realize that governments can't do as much to protect against hurricanes as they can against floods.

Smith also said cities that were growing before a natural disaster tend to rebound much more quickly than cities that were declining. He pointed to New Orleans as an example. That city was mired in economic and social problems before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, and it still is struggling to recover its population.

In contrast, the Cedar Rapids area has seen some of Iowa's strongest growth in recent years. Its population jumped 14 percent, to 124,000, between 1990 and 2006.

Will victims abandon Iowa cities? - The Des Moines Register - June 22, 2008