Florida's economy in 2014 is leading the nation, despite once being a straggler in the race for economic recovery, said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith in his first quarter economic forecast.
Florida was one of the first states to feel the effect of a national recession with job losses starting in April 2007, several months before other states. When the national recovery began in June 2009, Florida was slow to join in and for several years lagged behind the pace of the U.S. economic recovery.
But now Florida is a front-runner, he says.
"This has been no small accomplishment," said Snaith, the director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness.
In South Florida, employment is expected to grow 2.3 percent each year and unemployment to moderate to an average of 5.7 percent. The average annual wage is forecast to grow by 2.9 percent to $55,200, he said.
Snaith said he expects the Florida economy to continue to outpace the nation as a whole over the next several years.
Unemployment rates have fallen from their peaks, and they will continue to decline through 2017, he said. The pace of decline will slow dramatically as labor-force growth picks up. Despite this, the state's unemployment rate -- currently 6.1 percent -- should hit 5.4 percent by the end of 2017, Snaith said.
The sectors expected to have the strongest average growth during 2014-2017 are construction (10.0 percent); professional and business Services (4.3 percent); trade, transportation and utilities, which includes retail (4.0 percent); education & health services (2.3 percent); and leisure & hospitality (1.8 percent).