Pensacola Metro Report

The Studer Institute’s staff spent five months researching the material that would become the Pensacola Metro Report. The report looks at data from 1970 through 2013 to reflect economic, demographic, educational and public health trends in the Pensacola metro area, which covers all of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The data reflects the progress we have made and the work that remains for our community.

The Good & The Bad

Pensacola has made strong strides since 2000 in rebuilding our economy and community. And there are many bright spots to highlight as the Pensacola metro area finds itself on an upswing.

Get the good news here.
On the other hand…

Poverty, low educational attainment and poor health outcomes remain challenges for our community to overcome — and in some cases are spreading.

Read about the hurdles we must overcome here.

Who We Are

The western gate to the Sunshine State isn’t growing as fast as it once did. After steeply increasing every decade between 1970 and 2000, our population essentially stagnated. We had been adding an average of 27,900 households every 10 years from 1970-2000. At the current pace, the two-county area will add fewer households in this decade than it has in the last 50 years.

Peer Cities

The Studer Institute selected 11 metro areas to compare with Pensacola. Fort Walton Beach, Panama City and Mobile were included because of their location and size in relation to Pensacola. We also looked for metro areas in the Southeast that are similar in population and economy. Several metro areas in the tables have military installations and draw tourists and retirees.

The labor force participation rate shows the number of jobs in the metro area divided by the number of adults who reside there. The rate could be high because there may be fewer older or younger people per adult.

In Fort Myers, for example, the rate is lower because a large population of retirees brings down the ratio.

Fort Walton Beach, on the other hand, has a relatively small number of retirees compared to other areas (although that is changing as more retirees move to Destin and South Walton), and the higher-paid defense contracting jobs bring in workers who live outside the metro area.

Other contributing factors could be a high number of people dependent on an income earner (more children or more retirees), and a large “gray” or “casual” labor market where many people provide services on a cash basis, with some of that income not reported. Pensacola’s low measured rate is likely attributable to both of these reasons, as well as to some of our working residents holding jobs in other metro areas.

Fort Myers is the largest metro area in this group with a population of 666,086. In 1970, it was half the size of Pensacola.

Now there are six Fort Myers residents for every one resident who lived there in 1970.

Pensacola’s population growth was much slower than Fort Myers, but it is nearly triple that of Mobile. Inland Columbus, Ga., with a heavy reliance on military, and some tourism, grew only 22 percent over the 44-year time period.

Fort Myers also has the highest median age, at 46.1 years. Asheville is a close second. Its median age has grown only by 17 percent, while Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach led the pack with increases in median age of 60 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

This aging has implications for the importance of income from federal government transfer payments such as Medicare and Social Security.

Employment increased at a greater rate than population in all of the metros as more women entered the workforce, especially in Lafayette and Mobile. However, in some metros, a relatively greater share of the older and of non-working populations slowed that employment growth rate. This is true in Fort Myers and Pensacola.

The increase in average earnings per job was the greatest in Lafayette, La. and Columbus, Ga. The economies in those metro areas are driven by energy production and the military. Inflation adjusted earnings per job increased by 87 percent in both metros over the 44-year period.

Of a dozen metros during the same period, Pensacola performed the worst as military and manufacturing jobs were replaced by lower-paying jobs serving the needs of retirees and tourists.

Those changes are not unique to Pensacola; jobs in the military and manufacturing have declined nationwide.

Pensacola outpaced growth in the national average earnings per job because of military pay raises during the past few years.

However, the peer metros saw more growth in total personal income per capita than Pensacola.

The difference, however, is smaller than for average earnings per job because retirement income replaced earnings from labor.

Because we started the 1970 – 2014 period with higher personal income per capita than all but two peer metros, even with weak growth we still outrank four of those communities in 2014.

Mean household personal income growth has been roughly on par with that of Huntsville, Ala., and Asheville, N.C., but well below that of Lafayette and Fort Walton Beach. The effects of shrinking household size appear in communities where retirees are moving, such as Asheville and Pensacola.

Average household income in Lafayette reflects growth of the energy industry in that community’s economy.

Fort Walton Beach’s income growth reflects the impact of the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission process, which brought that area more military jobs relative to other military communities.

In this report

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