Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Even If the Economy's Music Is Softer Lately, It's Still Sweet

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Even If the Economy's Music Is Softer Lately, It's Still Sweet

Article excerpt

WHAT WE DON'T WANT IS boom, boom, boom, thud.

Whether we're going to get that in these uncertain economic times remains anyone's guess.

I'm referring to the way the Florida economy has picked up and run, at least in the first three months of 2012.

Sales across the Sunshine State set a record during the first quarter, posting their highest levels since the first quarter of 2007, just before the maw of the recession.

What we don't know yet because of the delayed nature of one of the best indicators -- sales numbers from the Florida Department of Revenue -- is whether the music continued in April, May and beyond.

Personally, I think it likely did -- just not as loudly.

The numbers for the preceding months that Doug Sword and Michael Pollick reported last week were pretty amazing, though admittedly discordant.

Miami-Dade's sales -- tied strongly to booming economies in South America -- were up 25 percent in March. That alone accounted for 40 percent of the state's March increase, which was pretty amazing. During the last seven quarters, the state's largest community saw average quarterly growth in sales of 12 percent.

By no means were our local economies weak in comparison, just not as strong: a 7 percent average in Manatee County and 5 percent in Sarasota County.

Statewide during March, sales surged 9 percent, while this region saw 6.2 percent growth -- with sales much stronger in Sarasota County than in Manatee.

Sarasota County's first quarter was its best since the same three months in 2008.

So what can we expect to see for the remainder of the year. The hopeful among economists think continuing but moderating growth, something they already are witnessing in some data.

I'll take that any day of the week.

The worry is that if the United States is hit by some of the financial fall-out from a weakening Europe, or slowing China or some other, unforeseen troubles, Florida will bear an even larger share of the pain, as it did during the Great Recession.

As Chris Lafakis, a Moody's Analytics expert who specializes in the Sunshine State, told Sword and Pollick: "Florida tends to do even better than the U.S. when the U.S. is gathering steam. It slows down even more markedly than the U. …

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