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Friday, June 17, 2009

South Florida Economy, Recovery May Be Near


According to data in a report released Wednesday by an influential Washington think tank, South Florida economy may finally be close to turning the corner on a recession that has hit the region far harder than most major U.S. metropolitan areas.


As of March 2009, the report published by the Brookings Institution, ranks South Florida  #85 among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas in economic performance, based on employment, unemployment rates, wages, gross metropolitan product, housing prices and Florida foreclosures rates.

The gross metropolitan product is the value of all the goods and services produced in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.


The pace of decline in employment and gross metro product slowed compared with other regions over the first quarter of 2009; however, this may foreshadow recovery for the region.

''For Miami and a couple of these other Florida metros, there are signs that you may be getting near the bottom of employment and the top of unemployment,'' said report coauthor Alan Berube, who cited the Miami area's relative economic diversity as a possible impetus for recovery.

Sean Snaith an economist at the University of Central Florida, called those findings consistent with national and local economic indicators that ''the plunge has slowed,'' but cautioned that the region will face further economic hardship even if it's nearing the bottom of the recession.


Meanwhile, the study's authors suggested that future federal incentives are more targeted toward places like the areas in Florida that have been most hurt by the recession.

''Many areas will need targeted assistance,'' said report coauthor Howard Wial in an accompanying statement, ``and since states have no funds available, the federal government will have to step up to fill the void.''


But Snaith was not optimistic about the prospects for focused funding from Washington, citing federal mortgage relief programs that already exclude many homeowners in hard-hit Florida areas because large Florida real estate price declines have put their mortgages too far underwater to qualify for aid.

''It's something that I'm not hopeful for or building into my forecasts,'' Snaith said. ``I just think we'll have a tougher path to recovery.''


Miami wasn't alone in Florida in reeling from the recession. Eight of the 25 worst-performing metro areas were in Florida, a list that included Orlando, Tampa, Bradenton, Unlike Miami, places like Lakeland, Jacksonville, Cape Coral and Palm Bay, Florida metros with less diversified economies may see a longer road to recovery, Snaith said.

''The labor market is going to be the ugly scar that remains and reminds us of the trauma we've gone through,'' he said.

''I think we're looking at 2011 or 2012 before we can talk about a return to the type of growth that we've become accustomed to in Florida,'' Snaith said.

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