Sunshine State continues its economic growth
Florida set some new economic records this past week, among them the lowest unemployment in a long time and a record number of tourists visiting the Sunshine State in the first quarter of this year. We also received some high marks for the economic impact of arts and culture but also some mixed marks for a persistent problem left over from the Great Recession: the number of properties underwater in value.
Florida’s unemployment rate dropped from 3.5% in March to 3.4% in April, below the national rate of 3.6%. Gains in education, health services, and leisure and hospitality jobs led the list. In all, 22 of the state’s 24 markets saw gains, led by the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area, which added about 45,000 jobs last month. Panama City, hit hard by Hurricane Andrew, was the only area to show a net loss year to date, down 1,900 jobs (2.2%) from last year. Florida’s private-sector businesses created 16,000 job in April and more than 203,000 jobs over the year.
The increase in leisure and hospitality jobs were fueled by the record number of tourists coming to Florida so far this year. The first quarter of 2019 saw 35.7 million people visiting Florida, a 5.8% increase from first quarter of 2018. Although there was a dip in foreign visitors of 2.6%, it was more than made up for by the 6.8% increase in domestic travelers and a 1.3% increase from Canada.
Those gains in education jobs must have something to do with Florida’s growing reputation as an education leader. U.S. News & World Report listed Florida in the top spot for higher education in its latest survey. Their analysis factored in the state’s share of college degrees, graduation rate and the time it takes to do so, in-state tuition costs, and the graduates’ debt burden.
It’s not just our beautiful beaches, weather, amusement parks and gorgeous resorts that are catching people’s eyes either. There’s a big uptick in the impact our arts and cultural activities are having on economic growth. A recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts showed Florida with the 9th fastest growing economic value of its arts and culture sectors, up 7.1% annually. They generated $35 billion for the state’s economy in 2016. From ballet, to live theatre, to art exhibits, Florida is growing and attracting both visitors and current (and future) retirees.
Being one of the last states to fall into the depths of the Great Recession of 2008-2012+, Florida has more slowly recovered from the number of properties considered seriously underwater – where the amount owed on the mortgage is at least 25 percent more than its property value today. A new report with county maps by ATTOM Data Solutions shows most Florida cities have a 10%-20% rate of seriously underwater properties, with Jacksonville an outlier at nearly 33%.
Overall, the country is slipping a bit in the progress gained over the past year, with first quarter figures showing 17,000 more properties underwater than a year ago, up to 5.2 million across the U.S. The report notes though that only 1 in 11 mortgages are seriously underwater today compared to nearly 1 in 3 during the depths of the recession. States with the highest percentage of seriously underwater properties are Louisiana (20.7%), Mississippi (17.1%), Arkansas (16.3%), and West Virginia and Illinois (both 16.2%).
LMA Newsletter of 5-20-19