MIAMI - Florida's economy has been losing ground since about 2000 on almost every measurement, including income, unemployment and inflation, a report released Monday says.
Florida International University economists said in their annual Labor Day report that the state's median income has fallen at a greater pace than the rest of the country and that poverty jumped nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2011.
The researchers at FIU's Research Institute on Social & Economic Policy said in their "State of Working Florida" report that while the 2008 Great Recession hit the state hard, particularly the implosion of housing prices and the depression in the construction industry, Florida's economic ills predate the crash.
"A lot of the problems were just exacerbated by the recession," co-author Ali Bustamante told The Tampa Bay Times. "The recession basically made them worse."
Florida's unemployment hit a high of 11.4 percent in 2010. The unemployment rate has fallen to 7.1 percent, but has been stuck at that level for three months. Typically, a healthy economy has an unemployment rate of 6 percent or less.
Census data released last week showed that Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured residents younger than 65.
According to the report:
- Florida's real household median income fell $5,668, or 11.5 percent, between 2000 and 2011. The median income is point where half of households make more and half make less.
- The wage gap between high- and low-earners grew between 2000 and 2012 as the top 10 percent of earners saw their incomes grow by 13 percent during that period while the bottom 10 percent saw their wage decrease by half a percentage point.
- Poverty increased by 47 percent between 2007 and 2011. Almost 23 percent of Floridians live at or near poverty levels.
- Floridians saw their average debt increase by 24 percent since 2003 to $42,938. That figure includes debt that requires monthly servicing such as mortgage, credit cards and student and auto loans.
- Consumer prices rose by over a third between 2000 and 2012. The typical item that cost $1 in 2000 costs $1.34 today.
- Florida, at about 5 percent, ranks second to Texas in the percentage of workers earning the minimum wage.
The reports suggests as a short-term solution that Florida increase its minimum wage of $7.79 an hour, expand paid sick leave and better enforce its laws against businesses that engage in wage theft - the practice of not paying employees money they have earned.
In the long run, the FIU researchers suggested that the state focus on moving away from low-wage industries like tourism and retail and toward industries such as wholesale trade, health care and social assistance.
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