Tampa Bay climbed one notch, moving out of last place, in the latest regional economic scorecard released Tuesday by the Tampa Bay Partnership.
But more troubling news overshadowed the slight uptick. Tampa Bay was the only one of the six regions tracked to report a decline in average annual wage, the first time that's happened in five years worth of scorecards.
Average wages in the bay area slipped to $38,382, down 1.49 percent compared to a year ago.
"Jobs and wages remain top issues for Tampa Bay," said Mike Vail, president and chief operating officer of Sweetbay Supermarket and chairman of the panel leading the scorecard initiative for the partnership.
The semiannual scorecard compares the bay area to five other regional economies — Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Jacksonville, and Raleigh-Durham — based on measures such as employment and workforce; income and productivity; housing; innovation; education and transportation.
Strong improvement in the transportation category, in which the formula was altered this time, helped the bay area move out of the cellar. As a new indicator in transportation, the partnership began tracking transportation consumer expenditures as a percentage of all consumer expenditures. Formerly, it compared metros based on transportation investment per capita.
Overall, Jacksonville now ranks sixth, though Tampa Bay is within a point of tying for last place.
In fact, the rankings showed the two Florida metros both have a lot of ground to make up.
"Jacksonville and Tampa are still in a lagging position relative to the other four," Vail said. "We understood the Florida economy is going to be slower to move out of the recession than many other areas of the U.S., and I think you see that evidence in the findings."
The distinction is particularly clear in comparing income. Jacksonville, with a median wage of $42,375, is in the same ballpark as Tampa Bay. The other markets were all close to or slightly over the $50,000 mark.
"That's a 25 percent increase we'd have to get" to be in the same range, observed Dave Sobush, Business Intelligence Officer with the partnership.
Sobush said regions that scored high in education and innovation tended to score higher in income as well.
Case in point: Raleigh/Durham. The North Carolina metro ranked first or second in all barometers, solidifying its overall first-place ranking far ahead of the pack.
Out of six categories used in the analysis, Tampa Bay's rank was unchanged in two: innovation and education.
In addition to a three-point jump in transportation, the bay area's housing rank also improved from sixth place to a tie for fifth. That was because housing affordability improved, not due to higher income but because housing prices have fallen significantly.
The region fell from fourth to sixth in the income comparison. It fell from fifth to sixth in a category measuring unemployment rate and job growth.
Yet even on the jobs front, partnership executives cited a silver lining: though the Tampa Bay market lost 5,700 jobs compared to a year ago, it was a far cry from the last scorecard when job losses hit 54,000.
"We're starting to see an upturn in the economy," Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Stuart Rogel said during a media briefing. "I don't think any of us had any idea the recession was going to be as long as it was."
The scorecard release came in conjunction with the start of the legislative session in Tallahassee.
Jeff Harrington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8242.