Published on “The Boca Raton Tribune” – On 04/13/2017 By Carlo Barbieri

If you were to put Florida and the United States into a head-to-head competition, which would come out on top in the areas of job growth and economic vitality?

It would be a tough contest. The US is made up of growing population centers as well as less-popular areas. It is a mix old northeast “rust belt” cities and fresh, vibrant, dynamic metros, usually in southern and western climes.

Unlike the US, Florida doesn’t have to pay for its own military and overall, it has a built-in popularity that draws people to areas of prosperity, from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach in the south to Orlando in the center and Sarasota, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville in the north.

But the US has many departments working to bring in tax dollars, to keep people protected and to maintain order. It is in charge of the nation’s legal system, education department, bureaus that investigate crime on a national and international basis or deal with nations around the world, many of whose leaders are hostile to our nation.

Basically, the US has a lot of work that Florida doesn’t get involved in.

Besides, Florida is part of the United States, so the level of its success or failure is reflected in overall national numbers.

Let’s meander a bit through some recent observations about Florida and the US and see how they stack up.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported a few years ago that Florida’s economic growth in 2014 outpaced the national average, as it had in 2013. Goods and services produced in Florida increased 2.7 percent compared with 2.2 percent nationally four years ago.

Growth in Florida at the time topped all states east of the Mississippi River except West Virginia, where the economy jumped 5.1 percent thanks to its mining industry. Florida’s economy, meanwhile, has benefited from strong development in real estate, rental, and leasing. Florida, with more than triple the national growth in the real estate sector, was behind only one other state in this area — North Dakota, according to federal data.

Overall, Florida’s economic growth ranked 11th in the nation four years ago — good enough to beat any state touching the Atlantic — including New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and Georgia.

If you wonder how Florida’s economy compares with the rest of the U.S. these days, a new WalletHub study sheds some light on how the Sunshine State is faring.

After assessing 27 key economic indicators of strength and performance, WalletHub ranked Florida’s economy No. 22 compared to the rest of the United States and the District of Columbia.

WalletHub analyzed data ranging from economic activity and economic health. Here’s how Florida stacked up (1 = best, 25 = average):

  • 5: GDP growth
  • 37: Exports per capita
  • 2: Startup activity
  • 35: Percentage of jobs in high-tech industries
  • 39: Annual median household income
  • 3: Change in non-farm payrolls (2016 vs. 2015)
  • 23: Government surplus/deficit per capita
  • 31: Unemployment rate

The one bleak spot: Florida’s per capita share of the economy — the state’s output of goods and services divided by its population — continues to lag behind the national total.

It took a while, but Florida has spent the last few years rebounding from the 2007-2008 recession. Economists say the turnaround began in 2011, when the state’s economy actually contracted .6 percent. Goods and services grew only 1.7% in 2012, below the 1.9% national average.

One piece of good Floridian news was just recently released. Florida is forecast to reach a $1 trillion economy in 2018, but with it, job creation is expected to slow, according to economists who gathered recently in Tallahassee for the 2018 Economic Outlook Summit.

Led by the state’s Chamber of Commerce, data from the summit show Florida with a booming market, many incoming residents bringing new income and a high gross domestic product. The state’s GDP, or value of all products and services, “is bigger than Saudi Arabia,” said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber.

Job growth – which has been soaring in Florida for at least 10 years – may slow down a bit. Florida is forecast to add 180,000 jobs in 2018, slightly fewer than last year.

“We have reached a peak in job creation,” said Jerry Parrish, chief economist for the state’s chamber.

Looking at job growth on a national level, half of the new positions created in the United States during 2017 were in just five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia. These states have about 36% of U.S. population, but captured 51% of the job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Big and growing cities, such as Dallas, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, Riverside, San Francisco and Orlando, are the powerhouses of the economy.

Finally, with all that information to draw from, U.S. News & World Report has released a list of the 100 best places to live in America. The ranking examined communities using five metrics: job market, value, quality of life, desirability and net migration.

Based on that, the best place to live in America is Austin, Texas, followed by Denver, Colorado; San Jose, Washington, D.C. and Fayetteville, Ark.

Florida communities don’t enter the list until Sarasota, at 21, with its warm beaches and thriving cultural scene; Tampa, with its laid-back beach lifestyle, 35; Orlando and its theme park magic, 40; Jacksonville, number 45 and Melbourne, a population center of the space coast, 49.

Just think. If Florida were a country, the statewide chamber said, it would rank 16th in the world.