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Florida’s economy is resilient, but growing pains persist

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Stronger than before

More than halfway through 2024, Florida’s economy remains strong, according to the Spring quarterly forecast reporton Florida’s economy authored by Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Forecasting.

“The data that came in in the first quarter suggested things were even a little bit stronger than what we were originally forecasting for the year,” he said.

Snaith forecasts that compared to the national economy, the state’s real gross domestic product (GDP) will grow 1% faster, unemployment will remain one-tenth of a percentage point lower, and payroll job growth will be faster by 0.6%.

“Florida is continuing to outperform the national economy. We do believe the U.S. economy is slowing, and Florida's economy will slow as well,” said Snaith. “We're not immune from a national slowdown, but I think we're more resistant to the effects right now than perhaps we have been in previous slowdowns and recessions.”

Population growth and a strong labor market puts Florida in a better position to deal with recessions and economic slowdowns, according to Snaith.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida had the fastest population growth in 2022. In addition, in 2023, Census data estimated Florida had four of the five fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country from 2022 to 2023, led by the area that includes The Villages.

“For any regional economy, state, or a metropolitan area, as more people move into it, there’s by definition, more economic activity,” he said. “People need places to live, they need medical care, education for their children, groceries, transportation, and on and on. So that's one factor that's going to serve as a buffer for our economy.”

As for Florida’s strong labor market, Snaith said, “even with a bit of an uptick in the unemployment rate. We're still looking at incredibly low rates of unemployment across the state. And for the most part, if people are seeking the work, there are jobs to be had.”

Florida Unemployment rate compared to the national unemployment rate, according to the Spring 2024 Florida & Metro Forecast
Sean Snaith
/
University of Central Florida
Florida Unemployment rate compared to the national unemployment rate, according to the Spring 2024 Florida & Metro Forecast

Growing Pains

Just like a child may experience soreness in their legs from growing pains, Snaith said Florida’s population will experience growing pains of its own related to housing and transportation.

“You've got a population that continues to swell, and you've got a transportation network that is strained under that increasing amount of traffic,” said Snaith.

He said that population growth, along with the rising cost of housing in Florida, will continue to be a problem for the state economy.

“If you look at regions that historically have grown across the country, they spread outward,” said Snaith. “In the sense that you need a transportation network that can get people from where they can afford to live to where the jobs are.”

Snaith said he’s already hearing stories of Floridians working in Orlando, but living more than an hour away in Ocala, which is why expansion of the transportation network, like SunRail, is important to fixing the issue.

“There will be another recession, I'm 100% sure of that. When exactly will it take place? Well, that's a little more difficult to say,” said Snaith. “It doesn't look to be in the near horizon. So I think what we're going to be dealing with in terms of economic woes are going to be related to growth and growing pains.”

Economy and the 2024 election

James Carville coined the phrase, “it’s the economy stupid,” when advising Bill Clinton for his presidential run in 1992.

However, Sean Snaith doesn’t think that has been the case in recent election cycles.

“I think this notion that people vote by their pocketbook still carries some water,” he said. “But I'm not sure if it's necessarily the only thing that is going to decide who people vote for, either.”

The cost of living increases in the Sunshine State will be among top of mind issues for Florida voters this election season, according to Snaith.

“The cost of housing in Florida, in part, because of the population growth, remains higher than what we're seeing across the country,” he said. “So the inflation element of the economy in Florida probably is a little more raw than in some other parts of the country.”

Overall, there are a host of issues on voters’ plates, said Snaith.

“Inflation is on the plate, I think for voters, but I don't know that it's going to be the main dish.”

After a brief stint as Morning Edition Producer at The Public’s Radio in Rhode Island, Talia Blake returned to Central Florida Public Media. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with degrees in both Broadcast Journalism and Psychology. While at UCF, she was an intern for Central Florida’s public affairs show, Intersection. She joined on as Morning Edition Host in 2019. In 2022, Ms. Blake was appointed to the Florida Association of Broadcast Journalist’s board of directors.
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