South Florida pocketbooks on the path to recovery


Miami-Dade’s recovery is the best in the region as figures show average personal income exceeding ’08 levels.

By the numbers

2011 average personal income (which includes wages, investment dollars and government aid)

Broward: $42,768

Florida: $39,636

Miami-Dade: $37,834

Monroe: $58,941

Palm Beach: $53,500

South Florida’s battered pocketbooks are getting closer to recovery.

Personal income figures released Monday show that the average Miami-Dade resident brought in $37,834 last year. That’s 1 percent higher than the previous peak of $37,346 set in 2008, before the full brunt of the recession hit South Florida’s economy.

Miami-Dade’s recovery is the best in the region: Broward remains 2 percent off its previous record, while Monroe County is down 7 percent and Palm Beach is off 10 percent.

The milestone revealed by the Bureau of Economic Analysis reflects Miami-Dade’s broader scorecard in the recovery. Miami-Dade has mostly outpaced the region in terms of real estate sales, job creation and hotel bookings.

“Dade has closer ties to Brazil and Colombia and so on,’’ said David Denslow, an economist at the University of Florida. “You also didn’t see the construction sector get hit as hard in Dade as you did in Broward and Palm Beach. Because Dade was largely built out.”

Still, in the new personal-income figures, Miami-Dade trails the recoveries seen in Florida’s other large counties in the center of Florida. Hillsborough County, home to Tampa, and Polk, home to Lakeland, both saw personal income rise 3 percent over their highs.

The new statistics do not take inflation into account, so barely crossing the 2008 marker on personal income does not signal Miami-Dade’s recovery from a recession that helped cut property values in half and sent unemployment rates near historic highs.

Monday’s release offers a historic look at the recession’s impact on South Florida households. In fact, 2009 was most likely the worst year for South Florida’s economy since the Great Depression.

Income combines wages, investment earnings and government aid. Though the latest recession officially began in December 2007 nationwide, the true damage came in 2009. That year, per-person income plunged in all three South Florida counties at the steepest rate since at least 1969, the first year of the data.

In Broward, per-person income dropped 8.2 percent in 2009. In Miami-Dade, it dropped 5.4 percent, and Monroe saw a 13 percent plunge. Palm Beach’s personal-income figure dropped 14 percent.

Local income data goes back to 1969, but statewide income numbers are available through 1929. Of the five worst year-to-year drops in personal income Florida ever suffered, four occurred before 1934. The fifth worst year was 2009, when incomes dropped 8 percent (The worst was 1932, when incomes plunged 20 percent).

If government aid is removed from the income data, 2009 would have been the third worst year for Florida since 1929, with a per-person income drop of 12 percent.

Read more The Economic Time Machine stories from the Miami Herald

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