Florida Chamber: state economic outlook is good, despite pandemic

by | Jan 29, 2021

“If Florida was a stock, I’d be buying,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson at the conclusion of the chamber’s 2021 Economic Outlook & Jobs Solution Summit.

“Our fundamentals are strong. Our economy continues to diversify, and I feel very, very strongly … we have what the rest of the country wants, an economy that’s resilient, an economy that’s growing,” he said.

According to Wilson, businesses want to move to Florida because it is the 17th largest economy in the world, with a growing population, top-quality education, low taxes, strong job creation and workforce diversity, and quality of life.

Wells Fargo’s Managing Director and Senior Economist Marc Vitner said that some of the lifestyle trends that were accelerated because of the pandemic could benefit Florida in the long run. For example, there was a huge shift to shopping and working online. While that was not good for commercial office real estate or brick and mortar retail centers like malls, it was good for freeing people from large metropolitan areas who want to move to Florida.

In the manufacturing sector, Vitner said pre-pandemic, the state was doing its best since 1979 and he expects that to continue as the state recovers from the pandemic. He said, “Florida is heading for much better times in manufacturing and emerging technologies.” He predicted growth especially in communications technologies in South Florida.

He said the Space Program was another area he expects to do well as it works to bring internet to everyone around the world and, on the national defense side, go to the moon and build a base there.

Vitner also pointed to Florida’s changing demographics as a positive. According to www. theFloridaScorecard.org Florida has 22 million residents, and that number is expected to add 4 million more residents by 2030, which means they expect Florida to add more than 900 residents a day. Many of them are fleeing the country’s big metropolitan areas and looking for a little room to spread out.

And those moving here are wealthy. Vitner said they are moving to Florida from New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut and are bringing with them roughly $1.19 million an hour, up from $989 thousand an hour last year.
He also said that by 2026 the last of the Baby Boomers will turn 65, the average age of retirement. Those retirees historically relocate to the Sunbelt and Florida is a top destination for retirees because of our low taxes, low cost of living and high quality of life.

He also said as Millennials reach 40, they will have families, settle down, move to the suburbs.

All this means good news for the residential real estate market, especially for large luxury homes.

Vitner said, “Marry the people leaving big cities with the rise of remote working and I see bidding wars for trade up and large, luxury homes.”

He said across the board, demand for housing and construction are up, even during the pandemic and he expects that to continue.

Brad O’Connor, Chief Economist for Florida Realtors agreed and reported home sales in Florida are up 19 percent in the second half of this year, despite the pandemic, and luxury homes were the first to recover. He said year over year sales of million-dollar home were up 101 percent and Southwest Florida had a huge year.

He also said there is no inventory at the lower level of home prices.

On the job front, Dr. Jerry D. Parrish, Chief Economist and Director of Research for the Florida Chamber Foundation reported that finance jobs increased by 11,000 this year. But tourism and hospitality jobs were devastated, losing over 550,000 jobs and only recovering 62 percent of those to date. The job loss was due to a 90+ percent reduction in international and Canadian visitors to Florida during the pandemic.

He expects Florida to not fully recover from the pandemic until the first quarter of 2023.

Florida currently creates one of every 11 new U.S jobs according to the Florida Chamber and the state currently has 371,000 job openings (a number that’s increasing) and 614,000 unemployed (a number that’s decreasing), with overall unemployment at 6.1 percent.

Parrish expects jobs to grow by 280,000 in 2021.


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