In a continued signal of the improving health of the region, the Pensacola Bay area is witnessing continued economic growth.
Most of the just-released census data is cause for some celebration in Northwest Florida. Incomes and employment are continuing to rise, while poverty dropped throughout the Pensacola Bay Area.
The new American Community Survey 2015 data released this week provide an optimistic view of the country’s and the Pensacola area’s fortunes. The data showed income growth across the country.
According to data released last week by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the unemployment rate in the Pensacola metro region dropped to 4.8 percent in August, down from 5.3 percent over the past 12 months, and down from 5.2 percent in July.
The figures are down from a high of 9.8 percent in 2010 when the country was in the midst of the Great Recession — considered to be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression nearly a century ago.
Florida’s statewide unemployment rate stayed at 4.7 percent, the same as July, and still the lowest rate since November 2007; that was down 5.2 percent a year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in August.
The state said there were 454,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 9,717,000.
Florida businesses created 22,600 private-sector jobs across the state during August 2016.
“It’s a great thing,” said Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. “We have people moving into the state every day and private sector businesses are creating jobs. Having a steady unemployment rate with all those positive indicators is a great thing.”
The state jobs report doesn’t include underemployment, which means those people who have part-time jobs or multiple jobs and still struggle to make ends meet.
Income rising, poverty decreasing
In still more positive news, median household income in Escambia County is slowly on the rise at $46,000, up from $42,877 in 2013. That means half made more than that, and half made less.
And while the gender pay gap has persisted, it has been greatly diminished over the past several years. In 2015, women earned 87 cents for every dollar men made. In 2009, the gap was 62 cents for every dollar.
For the first time since the survey began in 2005, the national poverty rate dropped two years in a row. Here in Pensacola, the poverty rate dropped to its lowest since at least 2005. 13.1 percent of Escambia County residents are below the poverty level. White households had a poverty rate of 9.1 percent, while black households were much more at risk at 21.3 percent, although down from a high of 38.3 percent in 2009.
The percentage of people making less than $35,000 a year has consistently dropped over the past decade as well. 35.4 percent of people in 2015 made less than $35,000 a year, down from a high of 43.1 percent in 2005.
Surprisingly, Pensacola’s richest have seen their wealth diminish, on average. The portion of households making $200,000 or more, the highest described income category, dipped slightly, with 1.8 percent of people fitting this description.
Meanwhile, the portion of people without health insurance in Escambia County dropped to an all-time low of 10.5 percent from an all-time high of 18.4 percent in 2011, one year after the Affordable Care Act became law.