Business

Do you feel richer? If you live in the Miami area, you should

Al Diaz / Miami Herald Staff

If you live in South Florida, you should be feeling a little richer.

Personal income in the Miami metro area rose 3.2 percent in 2014, marking the largest increase since 2011, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Job growth spurred the increase — a significant uptick over 2013, when personal income dropped by 0.8 percent.

Per capita income also grew across the tri-county area, bouncing back from a 2.1 percent drop in 2013 with a 2 percent increase in 2014.

The figures were adjusted for inflation, which was 1.8 percent in South Florida.

Statewide, personal income grew 3.4 percent in 2014, slightly higher than the national average of 2.9 percent. On a per capita basis, however, Florida personal income underperformed the national average of 2.2 percent, growing only 1.9 percent.

Florida figures were adjusted by the statewide inflation rate of 1.6 percent.

Economists attributed the increase in income to consistent, broad-based job growth.

Mark Vitner, the managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo, attributed the statewide boost to job creation across a wide range of industries. From May 2013 to 2014, Florida saw a 3.2 percent increase in overall employment.

“Early on in the recovery from the recession, we were seeing a lot of growth concentrated in the retail and hospitality sectors, so we had a lot of part-time jobs in low paying industries,” Vitner said. “In 2014, we saw broad-based job gains, including high paying areas like professional business and financial services, construction and others.”

Sean Snaith, the director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, agreed that job growth has fueled the state’s recovery, pointing particularly to gains in tourism.

“Tourism has been one sector in Florida that has had solid, consistent growth and has been a big part of our recovery. We’re well ahead of the national rate of job growth,” Snaith said.

The personal income data is released with a longer delay than other economic indicators. The BEA measures personal income growth through tax records, which take longer to process and analyze than other economic measures like GDP and unemployment.

That lag is critical to evaluating the data, Snaith said. “It’s a look at our past. It doesn’t necessarily tell us where we are now or where we are headed.”

Going forward, Snaith said, “my biggest concerns are about what the global impact will be on the recovery nationally and in Florida. Much of the rest of the world is dealing with economic and political difficulties, from Zika to Brexit. The rest of the world is not a very hospitable place for the U.S.’ and Florida’s economy.”

But Vitner said he is confident that Florida’s personal income growth will continue to rise in the next two to three years.

“People should keep in mind that 2015 was an even better year for Florida. Real GDP grew 3.1 percent, one of the largest gains in the nation. Population growth has ramped up and the quality of jobs being offered around the state has improved,” Vitner said “I expect the numbers for personal income to look even better in 2015.”

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