Four years after the recession officially ended, poverty remains at elevated levels throughout South Florida.
Nearly one in four Miami-Dade families with children fell below the poverty line in 2012, up from 18 percent in 2008, the first full year of the recession, according to Census Bureau figures released on Thursday. A recovering economy has not helped lift up the region’s poorest residents. Poverty levels in 2012 remained roughly where they were in 2011 and 2010, according to the latest Census survey: about 21 percent in Miami-Dade and 15 percent in Broward.
The new figures from the American Community Survey offer a statistical look at the local economy. They reveal few significant shifts between 2011 and 2012, suggesting the economy remains stable and that day-to-day conditions for the poor are not getting worse.
But the numbers also reinforce an ongoing gap between an improving economy and the economic conditions facing the working poor and impoverished in both South Florida and across the country. The stock market continues to flirt with new highs and overall spending in South Florida as measured by taxable sales hit record levels this summer.
“It’s not unusual for poverty to continue to go up even when the recession is over,’’ said Trudi Renwick, chief of the Poverty Statistics Branch at the Census. “Generally, changes in poverty have lagged the overall economy.”
Adjusted for inflation, earnings for the typical worker in Miami-Dade dropped 7 percent between 2008 and 2012, from $27,202 to $25,400. A family earning $22,000 or less is considered to be in poverty, according to government guidelines. Median earnings in Broward also dropped 7 percent since 2008, to $30,239. They were flat in both counties between 2011 and 2012.
Use of food stamps has shot up during the same four-year stretch: from 6 percent of all Broward households in 2008 to 12 percent last year, and from 14 percent to 26 percent in Miami-Dade.
The numbers offer another reminder of the long recovery underway from what economists consider to be the worst recession since the Great Depression. At the end of 2008, Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate stood at 8.6 percent. It would soar to 12.5 percent in spring of 2010 before it began a gradual decline back to the latest reading in July of 8.8 percent, basically where it was in 2008.
Richard Ogburn, research director at the South Florida Regional Planning Council, said the Census figures reflect the lasting consequences of the depths of the recession, which officially ran from December 2007 to June 2009. While payroll numbers are growing in South Florida, they’re still not back to where they were at peak hiring in the summer of 2007. The ongoing deficit makes it that much harder for the long-term unemployed to get back into the workforce with a new job.
Broward’s payroll count remains off 5 percent, with an additional 44,000 jobs needed to close the gap. Miami-Dade needs 31,000 to close the 3 percent gap from its prior record. Florida is scheduled to release the August jobs figures Friday morning at 10 a.m.
“The people who are the long-term unemployed are most likely to along the way to be falling into poverty,’’ Ogburn said. “When you’ve been unemployed for three or four years, nobody has enough savings to carry them through that.”