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Robert Trigaux

How economically stressed is your county? Check out the "economic stress index"

Wake up and good morning. Here's one of the more innovative ways to look at the state of our current economy and, to get granular, the state of economic stress county by county across Florida -- and the entire United States. It's a map, created by AP, that measures the recession's relative impact on local economies.

The short version? Be very happy you do not live in Imperial or Merced counties in California, or Presque Isle County in Michigan, or Crook County in Oregon or Wilcox County in Alabama. They are among the most super-stressed counties in the country, according to the AP analysis.

And Florida? Not surprising to those who track the our weakest areas, Lee, St. Lucie and Flagler counties top the state. The AP Economic Stress Index uses unemployment, bankruptcy and foreclosure rates from each U.S. county to calculate the economic impact of the recession on a scale of 1 to 100. The results are then plotted on the color-coded Stress Map to give a measure of how hard the recession has hit a county compared to all others.

The most stressed county in Florida? Lee County (home to the Fort Myers area) with a "stress index" of 19.98, and composed of a 12.2 percent unemployment rate, a 7.59 percent foreclosure rate and a 1.38 percent bankruptcy rate.

The least stressed county in Florida?  Liberty County (a rural county west of Tallahassee) with a "stress index" of just 5.82, and composed of a 5.2 percent unemployment rate, a 0.31 percent foreclosure rate and a 0.35 percent bankruptcy rate.

The good news for Tampa Bay. We may not be on the low end of the stress index but we're a long way from the high end. Check out this interactive map and the more in-depth story. It's an education.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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