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Florida generated 7th fastest growing GDP in 2015 but still trailed major rivals

Florida enjoyed a bullish gain to its state gross domestic product of 3.1 percent last year, ranking it seventh among the states. But some of Florida's biggest rivals — large population states that it likes to compare itself against — outgrew the Sunshine State.

Specifically the GDP of California, the state Florida Gov. Rick Scott most likes to disparage for its high taxes and costs, grew 4.1 percent, tied with Oregon as the fastest-growing state economy in the nation. And Texas, the giant Sunbelt state Scott most likes to fashion Florida after, saw its GDP grow 3.8 percent in 2015. That ranked Texas No. 2 in the country in GDP growth.

The biggest GDP winners last year were mostly western states. Among eastern states, only Florida at No. 7 and North Carolina, ranked No. 10 with 2.7 percent GDP growth, broke into the top 10 of seasonally adjusted growth rates, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The data also offers a peek at GDP momentum, showing how much each state's GDP grew or shrank in 2015 from 2014. By this measure, Florida's GDP rose to 3.1 percent from 2.6 percent. That gain of half a percentage point, however, ranked Florida 15th behind 13 states and the District of Columbia.

California's 4.1 percent GDP growth in 2015 from 3.1 percent in 2014 grew a full percentage point, ranking it No. 8. Texas, whose economy was hit hard in 2014 by the drop in energy prices, had no gain in GDP growth between 2014 and 2015. In both years, however, the state GDP grew 3.8 percent, significantly more than Florida.

To be clear, all of the states mentioned so far are boasting commendable GDP growth in an overall lackluster economy. In 2015, for example, North Dakota and Alaska saw their GDPs shrink while another 11 states reported GDP growth of less than 1 percent. And 28 states reported GDP growth in 2015 that was less than in 2014.

So what can be made of this sampling of state GDP numbers?

First, Florida's GDP is growing at a far better pace than what's happening in most states. That deserves some applause.

Second, measured by momentum, recent year-to-year GDP growth in Florida puts the state behind more than a dozen others. Let's see how Florida's GDP grows in 2016 given the rising talk among experts that a recession may loom in the not-too-distant future.

And third, Florida may face fresh challenges in sustaining its multiyear pace of record tourism, an industry that has helped drive the state economy. The Zika virus, which continues to push into the state, could become a larger concern here, especially if the Summer Olympics in Brazil accelerate the spread of the disease due to all the international attendance. Orlando's horrific mass shooting last weekend also could discourage some visitors, though tourism experts told Times staff writer Jerry Stockfisch that travel to the theme park capital of the world may prove resilient.

It will not help Orlando's battered image with the painful news report that a 2-year-old boy was grabbed by an alligator on the shores of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Toddler Lane Graves was with his parents and sister visiting Disney from Elkhorn, Neb. His body was found by searchers in Disney World's Seven Seas Lagoon late Wednesday afternoon.

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.