Projections of economic data can be frustrating. It can often feel like everything makes sense — until a pandemic, or Bitcoin, or ChatGPT happens.
That said, while historical data may not be perfectly predictive of the future, it does provide useful perspective. We can see how things have changed recently, and get a sense of what it might be like if they were to change further in the future.
To prove the point, we’re taking a look at four data series and, rather than confidently state where they’re projected to land, contemplate what it might mean if things go up or down.
We’ll start with what’s arguably the most interesting data set for Florida’s future, and that’s the number of homes available for purchase. The National Association of Realtors tracks this on a monthly basis for the state of Florida.
It’s always sunny in Florida, so the fact that this graph took a sharp turn in early 2020 suggests COVID had a significant impact on available housing inventory, as new movers entering the state bought up thousands of homes. From the summer of 2016 until April 2020, there were always at least 130,000 properties listed for sale, but for a year starting that spring, inventory plummeted, down to a minimum of just 47,000 homes — surely not near enough for a population of 22 million people.
Inventory has recovered substantially since then, and was back up over 100,000 in November for the first time since the pandemic started. But there’s still a 30% gap to the pre-pandemic level — and that’s with more people living in the state than ever before.
There are essentially three factors that affect housing inventory: demand from new homebuyers, supply from existing homeowners, or supply from builders. Counting on a larger portion of current homeowners to sell and relocate away from sunny Florida seems foolhardy. That means builders might have to be extremely busy for several years.
Construction wage growth
You don’t have to squint too hard to see the trend: Hiring construction workers the past few years in Florida has been an increasingly expensive proposition.
Wages were wacky in 2008, with workers earning pretty serious raises until the end of 2009, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Pay appears to have decreased on average in 2010, but has more or less been increasing since then.
If builders are to add another 20,000 homes to Florida’s inventory, they’ll of course need to hire many workers. That would continue to put pressure on this metric, which shows that construction workers got raises of about 8% on average in 2023.
Rental vacancy rate
If inventory isn’t built back up, Floridians could see a further decrease in the rental vacancy rate, which is tracked by the U.S Census Bureau. Vacancy spiked amid the 2008-09 recession, peaking at nearly 18% in 2009. But since the start of the pandemic, the rate is less than half that, having hovered around 7% for the last few years.
Could it fall to 6 or 5%? That will depend in part on the demand for rental units, which is itself partly influenced by the need for labor in other industries.
There would be less pressure on builders, and more available rentals, if people would stop moving to Florida. And while many new residents are drawn here to retire, plenty of others come here looking to work. As a result, one can get a read on housing demand by looking at demand for new hires: that is, if the data show that Florida employers are hoping to bring more people on board to work, it stands to reason that several of those folks are going to need a place to live as well.
As it turns out, the latest data on Florida’s hiring needs are suggesting a cooldown, at least from the rapid growth of recent years. The Florida Chamber of Commerce tracks total online want ads for jobs in Florida, and reports on trends for the most popular positions. For each of the 20 most popular job titles, the number of openings posted online is down substantially from a year ago, averaging a decline of about 30%.
One notable data point in the job openings table is -10,000. That’s roughly the decrease in online ads for Registered Nurse jobs in Florida over the last year. That’s runs counter to headlines and reports detailing the nursing industry shortage, and also runs counter to the nursing programs and schools popping up all over the state to meet the surge in demand.