Peltier column: Slowly but surely, Florida's economic recovery is coming


— Florida’s recovery from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s is going to take a little longer than previously expected, but it’s coming, a panel of economists predicts.

One thing is pretty certain: The economy is expected to add more than 1 million jobs in the next seven years all on its own, regardless of the change of leadership in Tallahassee.

“We do expect things to get better in Florida,” said Amy Baker, coordinator for the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, last week.

“We do expect to see job growth over the next few years ... It’s just not happening as quickly as we projected earlier.”

In the short term, unemployment will remain in double digits until the second quarter of 2012, a distant benchmark that underscores the depth of a recent recession fueled in large part by a housing bust and continued tight credit that is hampering private recovery efforts.

The panel’s work has been complicated by mixed signals. The state’s jobless rate is expected to bounce around as newly encouraged workers return to the job hunt faster than the jobs they are seeking. The result is a jobless rate that will hang in the 11 percent range for the next several months.

A glut of housing will depress prices, but the lower prices are expected to spur sales. Slow sales in other parts of the country will hinder the migration of retirees and empty nesters to the state. The lack of easy credit will hamper the efforts of leveraged investors but provide good deals for those with cash to put down.

“We’re at a difficult position about guessing at the future since things don’t seem to be moving in one direction or another,” said Don Langston, an economist with the Legislature. With housing and credit still tight for the foreseeable future, economists from the governor’s office, the Legislature and the Department of Revenue refined estimates made earlier this year to reflect a slower rebound than previously thought.

In general, the panel pushed back the pace of recovery by a quarter to half a year.

Florida’s malaise will mirror that of the nation’s, which is also expected to see sluggish recovery in 2011, according to a survey of economists released Monday by the National Association of Business Economics.

Economists blamed the lackluster recovery to a lag in hiring as companies hold back on inventory replacement, the federal stimulus program winds down and consumers continue to pay down debt.

Such “headwinds” will slow job recovery nationwide with the unemployment rate persisting at 9.2 percent by the end of 2011, making this the weakest post-recession job recovery on record, the panel of economists reported.

Confidence in the expansion’s durability is intact, but panelists remain concerned about high levels of federal debt, a continuing high level of unemployment and increased business regulation.

E-mail Michael Peltier at

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