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Economic Pluses and Minuses

Article # : 14254 

Issue Date : 8 / 1996  1,887 Words
Author : Mike Seemuth

       Few developments in the 1990s illustrate Florida's rapid population expansion better than the recent doubling in the number of telephone area codes assigned to the state--from four to eight in just the last two years. Made necessary by greater demand for phone, fax, modem, and pager numbers, the additional area codes are evidence of Florida's continuing growth--not just in the number of people who choose to make the Sunshine State their home, but also in the number of companies doing business there.
       Among the 50 states, Florida is the leader in business incorporations. There were 75,159 in the state during the first nine months of 1995, according to Dun and Bradstreet, the Wilton, Connecticut-based business research company, well ahead of second- place New York (56,198) and third-place Delaware (36,826).
       "You have a lot of new businesses in Florida. It's just a very dynamic state," says Dunn and Bradstreet economist Joe Duncan. "Migration to Florida has slowed down a little bit, but it's still dramatic."
       "Florida is considered the hottest housing market in the U.S., far outpacing number-two Texas," according to a report by Susan Little, a securities analyst who follows the home building industry for Raymond James and Associates of St. Petersburg. "Growth is driven by rapid job and population growth."
       Little notes that in a listing of the fastest-expanding U.S. cities, four metropolitan areas in Florida--Naples, Punta Gorda, Fort Myers--Cape Coral, and Orlando--rank among the nation's top 10 in growth in number of residents and jobs.
       Back in 1960, Florida was the 10th-most populous state in the nation, with 5 million residents. Today, with a population of nearly 14 million, it ranks 4th. To be sure, senior citizens still account for a large share of the state's new arrivals. But moving to Florida isn't synonymous with retirement; a large portion of Florida's new arrivals are working adults.
       No wonder. Few other states are creating as many employment opportunities. In April, the state's total nonfarm employment stood at 6.17 million, up 2.6 percent from a year earlier, and its unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, well below the nation's 5.4 percent rate. Some increase in unemployment may occur this year, however. In a survey by Florida Trend, a regional business magazine, six economists predicted that the state's average unemployment rate for 1996 would range from 5.8 percent to 6.3 percent.
       Health care and business services such as temporary help and computer maintenance represent two of the fastest-growing categories of employment. According to projections by the state Department of Labor and Employment Security, the five jobs that will multiply fastest in the 1992--2005 period are home-health aide, computer engineer, systems analyst, human-services worker, and physical-therapy assistant.
       Momentum in health care and business services is reflected by the types of Florida companies going public. Securities Data Company of Newark, New Jersey, says companies that sold stock to the public for the first time in 1996 include Phymatrix Corporation of West Palm Beach, a seller of management services to physicians; Riscorp, a Sarasota company that provides
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