The Year of the Dragon… or the Snowbird? ** Migration to Florida regaining momentum

The Year of the Dragon… or the Snowbird? ** Migration to Florida regaining momentum

By Zac Anderson
Published: Saturday, January 5, 2013

picture provided via Kelevra Mojo Co.

picture provided via Kelevra Mojo Co.

More people are expected to move to Florida in 2013 than during 2008, 2009 and 2010 combined
, as a primary force behind the state’s economic growth — migration from other states and countries — regains momentum after some of the worst years on record.

The increase in net migration is expected to reignite Florida’s growth machine and generate more jobs, construction and business sales, helping maintain a post-Great Recession recovery.

Florida’s new migration wave is the result of baby boomers and other retirees moving south again and the state attracting more working-age adults as the regional and national recoveries gain steam.

“Our best guess is that migration to Florida will accelerate from this point forward, plateauing around 2016,” said Chris Lafakis, a senior economist with Moody’s Analytics who tracks the state’s economy.

The influx of new residents is critical
because migration “historically has been the key driver for a wide variety of Florida’s service industries,” Lafakis said. “It’s one of the most important factors for the short-term and long-term performance of the state.”

Slow recovery

Florida’s net migration hit a low of 34,000 in 2008
and remained weak through 2009 and 2010.

Sarasota real estate agent Tierney Foster described the period as “dog eat dog.” Many agents that she knew left the business or found second jobs.

Foster got by on referrals from past clients, which have picked up lately.

“We have to be optimistic after what we went through,” Foster said. “Anything is better than where we were.”

Economists say the same factors that helped ‘investors’ to invest in Southwest Florida in 2012 are expected to spark an even stronger rebound across the state this year.

More than 171,000 people are expected to move to Florida in 2013, according to the most recent forecast from the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

If those predictions hold true, Florida’s growth will have recovered to 66 percent of historic annual net migration since 1970.

Economists and demographic experts do not expect the state’s migration levels to reach the highs of recent decades, when more than 300,000 people arrived in some years.

But net migration should top 200,000 in 2014 for the first time in eight years and reach a “new normal” of about 250,000 annually after that. At that pace, Florida would add the equivalent of five cities the size of Sarasota every year.

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