Florida's Red-Hot Economy

TALLAHASSEE — Like a muscleman who keeps increasing the strength of the weights he can lift, Florida’s economy is getting to the point of facing a similar vexing question: How strong can it keep getting?

Despite predictions from economists that the nation’s trade wars with China, the trillion-dollar budget deficit or some other factor may push the nation into a recession this year, the Sunshine State keeps moving in the opposite direction. While the U.S. posted an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent in September, Florida was doing even better, as the state’s jobless rate dropped to 3.2 percent.

And with so many new jobs being created here, the state’s labor force participation rate increased as well, attracting more and more people from other states relocating here to take advantage of the  215,000 private-sector jobs that got created over the year.

That figure of 215,000 is about the same as the entire population of the cities of Birmingham, Alabama, San Bernadino, Calif., or Tacoma, Washington.

<h2>Where Are Florida’s New Jobs Being Created?</h2>

As the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis noted,  a lot of the state’s job growth has come from professional and business services and the state’s burgeoning financial sectors. For a state that’s traditionally relied on lower-wage, lower-skilled jobs in tourism and hospitality, those two sectors are more likely to be looking for higher-skilled workers.

DeSantis credited Florida’s “business-friendly environment” for the job growth, particularly low taxes — Florida is one of just nine states without an income tax –and lack of burdensome state regulations.

“Prioritizing investments in innovation and talent development while keeping taxes low will continue to advance and diversify Florida’s economy,” DeSantis noted in a press statement. He also pointed to his office’s recent moves to further boost economic development by:

  1. Strengthening Florida’s infrastructure for electric vehicles;
  2. Assist in the development of FinTech training programs;
  3. Providing incentives for local workforce development boards that assist Florida’s veterans in finding gainful employment
  4. Working to ensure 60 percent of working-age Floridians hold a postsecondary degree by 2030.

<h2>How Did Florida’s Economy Look in September?</h2>

Ken Lawson, executive director of the Florida Department Of Economic Opportunity, noted that Florida’s annual private-sector job growth rate of 2.8 percent was considerably faster than the national job growth rate of 1.6 percent, and those jobs helped lure  154,000 newcomers into the state’s labor force over the past year. Florida had 277,495 openings in September.

“Each new job created is more than a data figure,” Lawson noted in a press statement. “It is a real opportunity for a Floridian to do meaningful work, pay their bills and live a better life.”

Statewide, Florida businesses created 8,700 new private-sector jobs in September. Several private-sector industries experienced healthy over-the-year job growth, including:

  1. Education and health services, with 59,600 new jobs;
  2. Professional and business services (49,200);
  3. Leisure and hospitality (30,300);
  4. Trade, transportation, and utilities (20,400);
  5. Financial activities (19,100);
  6. Construction (16,200).

<h2>How Is The Orlando Economy Doing?</h2>

As goes the state of Florida, so goes Orlando. In September, the Orlando area continued to have the highest job creation in the state. The City Beautiful added 45,600 new private-sector jobs in the past year, and the unemployment rate in the Orlando area was 2.8 percent in September, below the state and national average.

Orlando’s top industry in September was professional and business services, which created 21,100 new jobs. The governor’s office also noted that Orlando remained the second-highest metro area in demand for high-skill, high-wage STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) occupations, with 14,923 STEM job openings.

That should continue to fuel a solid population surge in the Greater Orlando area. During the 2019 Orange County Regional Economic Summit, panelists projected that Central Florida would add about 1,500 people per week over the coming years. The current population in this region (the counties of Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, Brevard, Polk, and Volusia ) is 4.3 million, and that could grow to 5.2 million by 2030.

The downside, urban planners warn, is that the cost of housing in the Orlando area is soaring and becoming unaffordable for many of the families moving here, making Orlando one of the worst metros in the nation for affordable homes.

The real estate website Zillow notes that Orlando’s housing market is, like the state’s economy, “Hot,” with a median home value of $243,900. “Orlando home values have gone up 4.1% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.2% within the next year,” Zillow noted in the report.

The median price of homes currently listed in Orlando is $289,000, while the median price of homes that sold is $244,800. And it’s not much cheaper to rent a home or apartment here, either: the median rent price in Orlando is $1,592.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Of Cats And Wolves.” Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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