Miami-Dade salary growth outpaces U.S. average
By Scott Blake
Salary levels in Miami-Dade County are slowly catching up to the national average — for those fortunate enough to have jobs.
While unemployment is still relatively high, Miami-Dade's average salary rose to $45,700 a year last year, just 2.3% lower than the national average, according to a new report commissioned by the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's economic development agency.
Over the last decade, county salaries grew by 35%, slightly faster than the nation as a whole, the report found.
Among other findings: Miami-Dade is among the more affordable places to live among comparable US metro areas. The cost of living in the county is just slightly above the national average, ranking seventh lowest among 16 major metro areas.
"Relatively low cost of living among major cities makes Miami-Dade County a highly competitive region for attracting cost-conscious workers and businesses," the report states
The "Competitive Assessment Report," compiled by a team of consultants, is the first in a series of reports in the Beacon Council's ongoing "One Community, One Goal" program to develop an economic blueprint for the region.
"Our consulting team has helped us confirm the many assets and advantages we have here locally," Adolfo Henriques, the program's co-chairman, said about the report.
"However," he added, "the report clearly identifies the weaknesses and challenges we must quickly address together, as a community, to remain competitive in this global economy."
Among those weaknesses is the county's elevated unemployment rate, the report found. In September, Miami-Dade's unemployment rate stood at 11.5% — down from last year, but still among the highest for large US metro areas.
A poor economy has pushed previously non-working residents to seek jobs, as the area's labor force was growing at 5% annual pace — faster than its population growth. Also, the county continues to draw immigrants, further boosting the jobless rate when they are unable to find jobs, the report states.
Meanwhile, 20% of Miami-Dade's population lives in poverty, higher than the 15% nationwide rate. Prior to the start of the national recession in 2007, poverty in the county had been decreasing.
Education is another drawback for the region, the report found.
Among the 16 metro areas, Miami-Dade had the lowest percentage (25.3%) of residents over age 25 with bachelor's degrees. In addition, Miami-Dade tied for last place with only 9.5% of residents over 25 with graduate or doctorate degrees.
"Low educational attainment levels in Miami-Dade make the county less competitive for professional companies," the report states, "and higher educational levels in South Florida indicate that better educated regional residents are more likely to live in Broward or Palm Beach counties."
On the front of worker compensation, however, the county has been making progress.
The information industry, which includes media, broadcasting and film, has the highest average salary in Miami-Dade at $70,100 a year, according to the report.
In addition, four sectors in Miami-Dade have salaries above the national average: trade, transportation and utilities; health services; government; and leisure and hospitality.
The region's other strengths:
nMiami is known as the Gateway to the Americas. The county is "truly an international community with global brand recognition," the report states, on par with Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, Singapore, Hong Kong, Panama, Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Atlanta.
Countywide, 65% of the adult population was not born in the US. Foreign nationals own 60% of downtown condominiums. And nearly half of all overnight visitors here are international — the highest level in the US.
If a US Visa waiver is approved for Brazil and other South American nations, international resident and business growth is likely to reach record levels in Miami-Dade, the report concludes.
nMiami-Dade has a strong opportunity to make information technology a targeted industry for economic development. Research shows the county has the third-highest concentration of people with technical degrees among comparable US metro areas. Yet, local business managers and owners express a greater need for information technology skills than any other field.
nDowntown Miami has been on a fast growth pace over the past decade. Between 2003 and this year, downtown's population doubled. Today, there are more than 70 downtown residential buildings, with major projects in the works that include housing, proposed by the Genting Group and Swire Properties.
"There are pros and cons to sizable investments in downtown that have the potential to burden existing infrastructure and result in a glut of downtown space," the report states. "Miami-Dade County has an opportunity to plan additional infrastructure to avoid these potential problems."
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