Florida's recovery from the Great Recession picked up steam last year and "all indications" point to even stronger gains this year, according to a statewide economic outlook released Thursday by Wells Fargo Securities.
Among positive signs: In-migration to Florida and hiring have both accelerated; the shadow inventory of homes is gradually being whittled away; and more businesses are expanding. Perhaps the most surprising outperformer stoking a recovery is professional and business services, which account for 40 percent of the jobs that have been added statewide since December 2009.
"While Florida will still need a few more years to fully recover all of the jobs lost during the 2007-2009 recession, a change in direction is clearly evident across much of the state," Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner and economic analyst Joe Seydle wrote in a 21-page dissection.
"Instead of wondering when and how Florida's economy will recover, the debate is shifting to which areas will lead the state's economic revival and which will lag behind."
The report, which includes a metro breakdown, was particularly optimistic about Tampa Bay's resurgence. Among observations:
• Construction remains "an obvious impediment" for the bay area's labor market. But the jobs recovery here has grown stronger in many other areas, such as employment staffing, leisure and hospitality, financial services, and trade, transportation and utilities.
• Though there is some conflicting data, "home prices appear to have bottomed out in Tampa," the two economists conclude. CoreLogic reports prices are down 1.9 percent over the past year, but data from Trulia indicates median sales prices for existing homes in the region are up 10 percent from a year ago.
• Consumers are starting to spend again. Retail auto sales, which includes car dealers, are up 13.3 percent in the region over the past year, one of the strongest gains in the state.
• Tourism is growing solidly, aided in part by the opening of the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. Tampa is "poised for stronger gains" as it improves infrastructure and spruces up its downtown in preparation for the Republican National Convention in August.
Jeff Harrington can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8242.