The U.S. economy reached a milestone last spring when employment surpassed its pre-recession peak set in January 2008. It was a long, slow recovery from the deepest recession since World War II. One of the hardest hit areas during the recession was Florida as the housing bubble burst, damaging one of Florida’s chief sectors in construction, and cash-strapped tourists cut back on vacations. But the Sunshine State has roared back and is expected to be among the leading states for job creation over the next few years.
Florida is home to six of the top 10 metro areas when it comes to the highest forecasted employment growth. Leading the way is retirement hot spot Naples with projected annual gains of 4.6% through 2017, according to Moody’s Analytics. “Areas like Naples are adding jobs at a faster rate because of the population growth among baby boomers,” says Moody’s Analytics economist Kwame Donaldson, who focuses on the Florida market. Retirees fuel jobs in industries that service the local economy like construction, retail and healthcare without putting a strain on the justice and education systems.
Naples’ net migration is the third highest rate in the U.S. over the past five years. Even with the population gains, unemployment has plummeted from a peak of 12.2% in 2010 to a recent 5%. Another important Naples perk: the third lowest crime rate in the U.S. Other Florida metros with a heavy retirement presence that rank among the areas with the best job forecasts include: Cape Coral (4.4%), Ocala (3.9%), Port St. Lucie (3.7%) and North Port (3.6%).
Orlando is the other Florida metro in the top 10 that is not dependent on retirees at all. It is the youngest non-college town in Florida by median age. It is thriving thanks to tourism infrastructure being built up through mainly Universal and Disney. More than 60 million people visited the Orlando area last year, the most for any city in American history. Employment growth is projected to average 4.2% a year through 2017.