Powered by autos, Miami-Dade sales zooming to rapid gains
By Ashley D. Torres
Despite the continued rise in Miami-Dade County's unemployment rate, the most recent taxable sales figures indicate rising consumer confidence and an improving South Florida economy.
According to the county's Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Miami-Dade's December unemployment rate rose to 13.6% after seasonal adjustment despite modest employment growth from 1.1 million workers in August 2009 to 1.124 million by the end of 2010. The reason: Miami-Dade's workforce continues to grow, with 7,000 new workers in December alone resulting in 4,700 additional unemployed residents.
Nonetheless, Miami-Dade's total November taxable sales, which represent consumer spending on goods subject to state sales tax, climbed year-over-year 7.5%.
"Consumer sentiment is coming back up," said Amy Baker, Florida's Economic and Demographic Research coordinator, "and people's perception about the future is getting marginally better."
Autos and accessories taxable sales led county growth with a 14.8% year-over-year rise to $368.3 million in November. This jump continues the autos and accessories spending hike from September and October, which saw 15.1% and 11.3% rises respectively.
Whereas in the past consumers spent cautiously, Ms. Baker said, they now feel comfortable undertaking major purchases. Pent-up demand and new car model deals also attributed to the auto-spending hike.
On the state-level, autos and accessories taxable sales climbed again in December and with another month of high numbers, Ms. Baker said, it will "show that we're starting to turn a corner on at least automobiles."
Another category seeing continued growth in Miami-Dade is tourism and recreation taxable sales, which rose 14.2% year over year in November to $643.9 million.
"Tourism has been on the upswing since the middle of last year," said Manuel Lasaga, president of consulting firm StratInfo, "and so the latest numbers confirm that we should be heading into a positive year, especially this winter season."
Following along on the trend of rising local tourism, November also saw an 8.6% year-over-year rise in Miami-Dade hotel occupancy to 72.3% from 66.6% in November 2009, according to Smith Travel Research's Trend Report. The report also showed average daily room rates spiking to $133.60, a 5.3% rise over November 2009's $126.88.
Consumer durables taxable sales, which are purchases on big-ticket items such as appliances and furniture, also saw a year-over-year rise of 3.5% in November. Durables, Dr. Lasaga said, typically spike during an economic recovery.
November's building investment taxable sales, which includes building equipment and construction material purchases, saw its highest 2010 year-over-year jump of 4.9% to $107.4 million.
"One observation does not a trend make," said economist J. Antonio Villamil, dean of St. Thomas University's business school, "butů it is nice to see that increase in an area that has been under a deep recession."
Consumer nondurables taxable sales, which include apparel and paper product purchases, also rose 5.2% in November.
Homestead expects commercial growth over the next 10
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