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Politics

Florida Economic Forecasters Predict Steady Job Growth

November 21, 2010 - 6:00pm

The unemployment statistics for Florida released last week revealed a slight increase in jobs but no movement in the overall unemployment rate -- a trend that is likely to continue if state economists predictions are correct.

Economists met Monday in Tallahassee to set their economic forecasts and begin the process of determining their revenue estimates for next year.

They see the total number of jobs steadily increasing along with personal income over the next few years, but an influx of new and previously discouraged workers will prevent the unemployment rate from falling rapidly.

The unemployment rate is not going down and the reason why is that people are coming back into the labor market, said Clyde Diao, of Gov. Charlie Crists Office of Policy and Budget.

An Agency for Workforce Innovation report released last week showed Floridas unemployment rate held at 11.9 percent in October, despite adding 6,900 jobs from the previous month and 35,700 jobs over the past 12 months. Many of the increases came from the private education and health services industry, while the loss of construction jobs begun at the start of the economic downturn and housing explosion continued.

Those trends will likely continue, the economists said, leading to about 1 million new jobs in the next seven years, even if Gov.-elect Rick Scotts pro-growth legislative policies are not adopted. In campaign speeches, Scott had promised to add 700,000 jobs in seven years.

But with the sluggishness in the housing market, I still expect construction to experience a decline. The bright spot, of course, is that education and health services will continue to grow, Diao said.

Local government jobs, already targeted by Scott for cuts at the state level, could be in jeopardy as cities and counties continue to grapple with shoestring budgets.

The federal stimulus dollars are running out. I dont think the finances of some of the local governments are going to be good enough to finance a lot of employees, at least in the immediate future, said Tim Campbell, economist for the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

Personal income and property income are expected to rise modestly in the coming years after dipping in the past fiscal year. But the quixotic housing market again offers mixed news.

According to an estimate from the EDR, personal income in Florida is expected to rise to $750 billion in the 2011 fiscal year, up from $725 billion in the 2010 fiscal year. Property income should come to $201 billion in the 2011 fiscal year, more than $8 billion from the previous year.

With property income, dividends are increasing because the stock market is doing so well, interests rates are low; with rent, its harder to tell because rents are decreasing because of the lingering foreclosure and housing crisis, Campbell said.

Although meager growth rates have dragged the country out of a recession, the uneven nature of the recovery with little job creation, both nationally and statewide, is making it hard on the economic forecasters.

The labor force for a long time had been flat. Were still at a turning point. The labor force hasnt consistently increased. Were in a difficult position in terms of forecasting the future because things arent necessarily moving in one direction or the other, said Don Langston, staff director for the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee.

Reach Gray Rohrer at grohrer@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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