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Economic update: Pinellas paycheck growth lags, Florida Chamber ups odds for a recession, DeSantis remains optimistic

Margie Manning



Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Tampa General Hospital

Jobs and wages are on the rise in the Pinellas County, but not as much as in Florida and the rest of the United States, new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

The probability of a Florida recession over the next nine months has increased to 34.2 percent, according to Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Jerry Parrish, and the state’s top elected official hasn’t forgotten the downturn that hit Florida hard a decade ago.

“I think there’s great strength here in a lot of the things we’re doing, but I also think we’ve had a long time, where there’s not been a technical recession since 2009,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a visit to Tampa General Hospital Tuesday. “I just believe history shows the economy is cyclical. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have a 2008 crash every time. But it does mean if we are looking at budget forecasts, to just keep in mind that we want to be prepared in case the economy doesn’t do as well.”

DeSantis’ comments in Tampa echoed remarks he made last week at the Florida League of Cities annual conference in Orlando, when he cited the state’s high credit ratings and significant reserves.

If there is a recession, it likely won’t be driven by factors in Florida, DeSantis said.

“We live in a global economy. We have a national economy. And these things can go up and down,” DeSantis said at Tampa General. “Some people out there are actually rooting to have a recession, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Why would you possibly do that. Do you remember being in Florida in 2008 and 2009? People losing their homes, losing their jobs.’ I don’t want to have something like that.”

Weekly wages

DeSantis’ comments preceded the Wednesday release of BLS data showing workers in Pinellas County are getting pay hikes that lag other locations.

Nationwide, weekly wages increased an average 2.8 percent between the first quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. In Florida, the increase was 2.7 percent.

The average weekly wage in Pinellas County jumped 2.1 percent, to $962, for the three months ended March 31 compared to the year ago period.

In Hillsborough County, the average weekly wage for Q1 2019 was $1,130, up 3 percent from Q1 2018. Hillsborough County workers had the highest average weekly wage of any county in Florida, slightly higher than workers in Miami-Dade County, where the average weekly was in Q1 2019 was $1,129.

Employment was up in both counties in Q1 2019, with a 2.2 percent increase in Hillsborough and a 0.9 percent increase in Pinellas compared to the previous year. Statewide, employment is up 2.1 percent. There was a 1.4 percent jump nationwide.

Yield curve

Florida has grown jobs faster than the U.S. for most of the past four years, said Jerry Parish, chief economist of the Florida Chamber Foundation, in a video released Wednesday.

Florida also has the 18th most diverse state economy, Parrish said.

Related story: Tampa-St. Pete area scores high in economic diversity index

But Florida’s probability of being in a recession in the next nine months has increased substantially, from 20.8 percent in April of this year, to 34.2 percent this month.

There are several factors, including the inverted yield curve, defined as an interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments such as bonds pay less than short-term debt instruments, according to Investopedia.

“These inversions are getting deeper and have often signal recessions in the past,” Parrish said. “It doesn’t mean we’re destined to have a recession, but the reduction in business investment that’s happening, along with the global slowdown, do increase the odds on it happening.”

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