Most overpriced cities? Tampa Bay's too high thanks to unemployment, stagnant pay

HomelesssignJanelSchroeder-Norton Wake up and good morning. If you're out on Tampa Bay roads, you see them on off-ramps from I-275 and along U.S. 19: Down on their luck folks holding signs ranging from Homeless and Out of work to Veteran needs help and in this local photo, taken in Hudson, Fla., Why lie need beer.

Well, here's a new sign of distress we may see soon:

 Live in one of most overpriced cities in America.

It's hard to believe that Florida boasts some of the overpriced cities in America these days, but a Forbes magazine analysis ranks Miami, Tampa Bay, Orlando and Jacksonville among the 20 most overpriced cities in the United States. That tags Florida with 20 percent of the most overpriced top 20 cities, which ties the Sunshine State with what's commonly perceived to be far more expensive California and its four cities in the top 20.

Egads, Floridians! Who bargained for this? When I moved to Florida 18-plus years ago it was still a  relatively low-cost state hyping sunshine and no winters. What happened?

To compile its overpriced list, Florida looked at earnings potential and living expenses in the country's 50 largest continental metro areas. Forbes ranked these metros using four measures:

* Average salary for workers with a bachelor's degree or higher, from PayScale.com;

* Annual unemployment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics;

* Cost of living, from Moody's Economy.com;

* And the Housing Opportunity Index from the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo, which measures the number of homes sold in a given area that would be affordable to a family earning the local median income, based on standard mortgage underwriting criteria.

Drumroll, please. So nobody's shocked to see Los Angeles is the most overpriced city in the country, but Miami's No. 3? And Tampa Bay is No 13, tied with Memphis. And more overpriced than places like Boston and even San Francisco?

Shocking stuff. Why are we so overpriced? Based on Forbes'criteria, Tampa Bay's cost of living (16th out of 50) is still cheaper than most big metro areas, and so is its "housing opportunity" (read affordability, 22 out of 50). Where we get our clocks cleaned is labor. Our unemployment rate -- 10.4 percent and climbing -- is much higher (38 out of 50) than most big metro areas. And what we earn here (37 out of 50) keeps us relatively poor.

I'd say we've got some serious work ahead trying to get Tampa Bay's wages out of suspended animation. Here's the ranking of the nation's most overpriced cities:


No. 1: Los Angeles, Calif.
(Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.)

No. 2: Chicago, Ill.
(Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill.)

No. 3: Miami, Fla.
(Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla.)

No. 4: New York, N.Y.
(New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y./N.J.)

No. 5: Providence, R.I.
(Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, R.I.)

No. 6: Riverside, Calif.
(Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.)

No. 7: Long Island, N.Y.
(Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y.)

No. 8: Cleveland, Ohio
(Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio)

No. 9 (tie): Newark, N.J.
(Newark-Union, N.J./Pa.)

No. 9 (tie): San Diego, Calif.
(San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.)

No. 11: Philadelphia, Pa.
(Philadelphia, Pa.)

No. 12: Portland, Ore.
(Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.)

No. 13 (tie): Tampa, Fla.
(Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.)

No. 13 (tie): Memphis, Tenn.
(Memphis, Tenn./Miss./Ark.)

No. 15: Orlando, Fla.
(Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla.)

No. 16: St. Louis, Mo.
(St. Louis, Mo./Ill.)

No. 17: Jacksonville, Fla.
(Jacksonville, Fla.)

No. 18: San Francisco, Calif.
(San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood, Calif.)

No. 19 (tie): Warren, Mich.
(Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich.)

No. 19 (tie): Boston, Mass.
(Boston-Quincy, Mass.)

(Homeless photo by Janel Schroeder-Norton, St. Petersburg Times.)

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 12:25pm]

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