Strong Job Growth Driving SW Florida Economy Ahead of National Pace


The rising employment opportunities in Southwest Florida, which indicate an economic recovery stronger than the national pace, make markets like Sarasota a looming hotspot for potential investors and home buyers.

The strong resurgence of the local economy manifested in March 2014 as the combined unemployment rate in Sarasota, Manatee, and Charlotte slipped to 6% from the previous month and from last year’s 7% level. The jobless rate in the three counties for the month was slightly better than the statewide count which stood at 6.3% and the 6.7% tally on the national level.

Firing from all cylinders

Strong Job Growth Driving SW Florida Economy Ahead of National Pace

Significantly, the Sunshine State registered the highest gain in payroll jobs in March with 22,900 new positions added. Next was North Carolina with 19,400 additional jobs. It is also noteworthy that the gains in Florida were quite broad-based, leading one economist to comment that job creation in the state has been “firing from all cylinders.”

The sectors driving the state’s economy include not only tourism spurred by the improving global economy. Consumer spending, manufacturing, and the housing and construction sectors are also contributing much to the vibrant local job growth.

Where hiring is strongest

Despite the heavy hiring in recent months, there are indications that more will be added to the workforce, particularly in Southwest Florida. One company that is on a hiring mode is Global Financial, a Sarasota-based and SEC registered investment advisor (RIA) which manages more than $3 billion assets. For 2014, it announced that it plans to further expand its 106 staff members to about 250 this year.

A Venice-based manufacturer of hurricane-resistant doors and windows, PGT Inc., was also reported adding more workers to the 400 it hired last year. This company is expected to open more manufacturing and administrative positions once it has completed its expansion in a new building.

Multi-million property developments set

Real estate development projects in various stages of planning and construction around Sarasota’s city center are also potential major contributors to the continuing employment gains in the region. Over $250 million is the estimated amount for the construction spending on these 25-or-so projects around the Sarasota urban core.

Besides generating construction jobs, further employment opportunities can be expected upon the projects’ completion, as among them are several labor-intensive hotel projects. Construction, for instance, has started for One Palm Avenue, a 138-room hotel to be built at a projected cost of $31.1 million. This project will also feature retail spaces and rental apartments.

Another hotel project is being considered at the lot adjacent to the city’s parking garage at Palm Avenue. At the South Tamiami Trail, near Fruitville Road, a 180-room hotel project is preparing for take-off under the Embassy Suites banner. Similarly, the Kimpton boutique hotel chain is planning for 150 rooms at U.S. 301 and Main Street.

What’s generating excitement currently is the $120 million Vue project now underway next to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota on U.S. 41 at Gulfstream Avenue. The Vue project consists of two 18-story towers programmed for a 350-room Westin Hotel and 144 luxury condos with units priced starting from the $700s now drawing considerable interest in the market.