Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Florida's Poverty Hit Plateau in 2011

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Florida's Poverty Hit Plateau in 2011

Article excerpt

ECONOMY: Improvement in Sarasota County, but not across whole region

After moving dramatically in the wrong direction for three straight years, two leading economic indicators -- poverty and household income -- began to level off across Florida in 2011 and even improved in Sarasota County, according to new U.S. census data.

The data is further evidence that Florida's economy hit bottom around 2010 and is slowly improving. But poverty is still at, or near, record highs across much of the state in a recovery that has been uneven.

Sarasota County's poverty rate dropped to 11.7 percent in 2011, down from 13.1 percent the year before, and median household income increased for the second year in a row, according to data from the Census Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, or SAIPE, that was released Wednesday.

But even in places where poverty is declining and income is on the rise, the numbers are still considerably worse than at the height of the real estate boom.

Sarasota County had a poverty rate of 8.1 percent in 2007 and its median household income was $50,031. Statewide, the poverty rate was 12.1 percent in 2007.

Meanwhile, other parts of Southwest Florida are faring worse, even with some broader signs of recovery.

Manatee County's poverty rate continued to climb in 2011 -- from 14.5 percent to 15.9 percent -- and household income declined for the fourth year in a row.

The poverty and income figures generally point to a sometimes painfully slow but steady economic improvement, said Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist.

"I think it's consistent with the fact that we're in recovery and consistent with the nature of the recovery, which has been subpar," Snaith said. "It's not this robust recovery that is going to be lifting a lot of people out of poverty."

Statewide, median household income in 2011 held flat compared with 2010, while the number of Florida residents in poverty inched up from 16.5 percent to 17 percent, a much smaller increase than during previous years.

Florida's economy has shown modest improvement through 2011 and 2012, but Snaith said he does not expect to see a substantial decrease in poverty until job growth accelerates. …

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