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Lutgert College of Business in the News

This is the text of a story in the Fort Myers News-Press of July 1, 2011

Census: Business, workers hit hard

Written by
Tim Engstrom
9:53 PM, Jun. 30, 2011|

The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday put a measuring stick against the economic strain felt across Southwest Florida and much of the nation for years.

The data shows just how much Lee and Collier county businesses suffered from 2008 to 2009. Together, the counties:

  • Lost more than 1,000 private businesses,
  • Eliminated almost 20,000 paid employees
  • Cut almost $700 million in annual payroll.

    No one doubts that Southwest Florida's economy has suffered mightily in recent years, but the numbers put it in perspective, said Gary Jackson, an economist and director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at FGCU.

    "The problem with this sort of information; it is 2009 data, but it reinforces how badly we were hit," Jackson said. "That's why they have been calling this the Great Recession."

    In 2008, Lee County was home to 16,319 private business establishments paying $6.1 billion in annual payroll to 184,702 paid employees.

    In 2009, those numbers fell to 15,593 businesses paying an annual payroll of $5.6 billion to 169,998 employees.

    Collier County fell from 10,188 establishments paying $3.9 billion in annual payroll to 106,743 employees in 2 008, to 9,860 businesses paying $3.7 billion in annual payroll to 101,535 employees in 2009.

    The data is from "County Business Patterns: 2009," the only detailed annual information on the number of establishments, employees, and payroll for most of the 1,100 industries covered at the national, state and county levels.

    The data includes only private businesses with employees, so government jobs and single owner/operator businesses are not included.

    The 2-year-old data reflects a time when Lee County's unemployment rate averaged 11.9 percent.

    The rate in May, the most recent month with data available, was 10.8 percent, demonstrating how slowly the recovery has progressed, Jackson said.

    "Usually, you can come out of a recession quickly with a lot of job growth, but that has certainly not been the case this time," Jackson said.

    One reason for that is that upheaval from within the financial sector was central to the economic collapse, and that is taking longer to correct, Jackson said.

    Nationally, businesses with paid employees numbered 7.4 million in 2009, a decline of 168,000 establishments from the previous y ear, which was the second consecutive year of decline. Further, between 2008 and 2009, employment dropped 5.3 percent, a decrease of more than 6 million employees, for a total of 114.5 million.

    "During the early years of the decade, the nation saw steady, if moderate growth in the number of establishments year to y ear," said William G. Bostic Jr., associate director for economic programs at the U.S. Census Bureau. "In contrast, the years 2008 and 2009 coincided with the recession and showed declines. In 2009, we also saw a drop in the number of employees."

    Between 2008 and 2009, all states showed declines in the number of business establishments, led by Arizona, which lost 6,000 (4.3 percent) and more than 200,000 employees (9.1 percent). Only Alaska (1.8 percent) and the District of Columbia (0.1 percent) gained employees from 2008.

    Among the top 50 counties in the United States by number of establishments, the county with the largest decline in average annual payroll per employee was New York with an 11.4 percent decrease. Payroll decreased from $102,000 per employee in 2008 to $90,000 per employee in 2009.

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