People ask us all the time how the economy is doing, and more often than not they are referring to the national, or macro, economy. Not that Northeast FL is a micro economy, but compared to the US, it is. Today I wanted to look at how the economy in NE Florida is doing.
First of all, let’s look at what drives the economy in Florida, tourism. According to Jacksonville.com, the first quarter of 2016 was a good one. Tourism rose 4.8% to 29.8 million, beating the all-time record for number of tourists visiting Florida in a quarter. In 2015, the total number of tourist was 105 million, and this year it is projected to be 115 million.
We know that in some parts of Florida, but to a lesser extent Jacksonville, tourism drives job growth. We are fortunate that our economy is not as dependent on one sector, but rather have a diverse workforce that relies on a number of different sectors of the economy. That is reflected in our unemployment rate, which in March sat at 4.4% according to the BLS. The largest parts of our workforce are made up of Trade, Transportation, and Utilites, while Professional and Business Services and Education and Health Services are not far behind.
Jacksonville has earned some national recognition for its tech jobs and support of its entrepreneurial community lately. Datafox.com recently put Jacksonville at #2 on its list of Best Cities for Tech (Outside of CA and NY). Forbes has it at #6 on its list of Best Cities for Tech Jobs. Forbes also listed Jacksonville as the fifth best city to find work in the U.S. last year. Nerdwallet rated Jacksovnille #4 in the Best Cities for Millenial Job Seekers in Florida. The list goes on, but this gives you an idea of how Jacksonville is changing.
Demographically, there are a few interesting things about Jacksonville. Jacksonville’s median age is just 35, which is three years younger than the Bay Area’s. This is surprising, because that is the destination of tens of thousands of millennials hoping to make it big in the tech world every year. With a median household income of around $51,000 in 2014, and a median home price of around $135,400 according to Zillow, Jacksonville is a very affordable place to live.
Jacksonville is also growing at a very fast rate. Last year, the five-county area that makes up Northeast Florida grew at 5.54%, while St. John’s county was the 11th fastest in the country at 14.7%. This is not surprising considering that Nocatee is the third best-selling master-planned community in the country.
Despite all of this, Jacksonville has a better than average commute time of 23 minutes versus a national average of 25 minutes. Jacksonville has been fairly good about addressing growth by creating new roadways such as 9A (now the I-295 east beltway), 9B, and the outer beltway. They are also doing major projects on I-95 south of downtown (called the overland bridge project), and redoing the I-95/Butler Blvd interchange.
There have been several large companies announcing expansions or new retail store openings in Jacksonville in the past couple of years including IKEA, WAWA, Nordstroms, Trader Joes, Top Golf, the list goes on and on…
The biggest negative in Jacksonville right now is our unfunded pension obligations. Our new Mayor, Lenny Curry, has proposed a plan to fix it via extending a sales tax that was supposed to expire. Do you support that plan? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.