On Monday, we learned that the number of millionaires in Florida had fallen dramatically. Now, a report finds that the economic future of the Sunshine State’s residents is not very bright.
The report of key economic indicators from the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy's (FCFEP) finds that per person, income growth in Florida has fallen behind the rest of the nation and that the gap in income between the most affluent and those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder is among the widest in the nation – and getting wider.
In addition to having one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates – in June, it hit 9.5 percent – many of Florida’s jobs are low paying. The national average annual earnings for all occupations were $42,270 as of May 2008. Florida’s average was almost 10 percent less, at $38,470.
"These key indicators point to a state in trouble," FCFEP Executive Director John Hall said in a news release. "As Florida makes decisions about how much to spend, what to spend it on and how to raise the needed revenues, the economic realities detailed in this report need to be kept uppermost in the minds of policymakers.”
The report noted these signs of trouble:
* Florida's population growth, which has driven the state's economy since World War II, is stagnant.
* Florida's rate of income growth has fallen to 45th in the country.
* The real rate of growth in gross state product – the value of goods and services the state produces – has fallen to 47th in the nation.
* With a poverty rate of 12.5 percent, the number of people living in poverty in Florida has increased by 180,000 in one year.
* About 1.9 million Florida residents – about one in 10 – receive food stamps.
* Foreclosures in Florida have quadrupled over the last three years. In the first four months of this year, new Florida foreclosure filings totaled 198,880, according to RealtyTrac.
* Per-capita state government spending is 44th in the nation, and Florida spends proportionately more of its budget on corrections than all but two states and a smaller share on education than most states.
The FCFEP is a Tallahassee-based nonprofit organization that conducts independent research.
Improving these trends will require “wise choices on both the spending and revenue sides of the Florida budget,” Hall said.