A healthy holiday season is just the beginning of a great year for Florida, according to a University of Central Florida’s latest state economic forecast released today.

“Kris Kringle has nothing on the Sunshine State,” said Sean Snaith, a UCF economist and director of the UCF Center for Economic Competitiveness. “The 34th Street Miracle pales in comparison to the economic miracle in the 27th state.”

Recent data show that Florida remained in recession for 2½ years longer than the national economy, and now the state is forecast to continue outpacing the nation in economic and job growth.  “Florida’s economic turnaround was even more impressive than first thought,” said Snaith.

While the holidays will be a temporary bright light for the national economy before it returns to a sluggish pace, Florida’s merry season is the spark that will set the state’s economy on fire in 2015.

Home construction, payroll job growth, personal income, retails sales and even the gross domestic product should see increases in the next quarter, many better than the national average.

Even the labor force looks to get a lift in the new year.

“The faster pace of job creation has breathed new life into Florida’s labor market,” Snaith said. “The improved prospect of finding a job is putting more Floridians back on the job hunt.”

The sectors expected to have the strongest average job growth during 2014-2017 are construction (9.2 percent), professional and business services (3.5 percent), trade, transportation and utilities (3.3 percent), leisure and hospitality (2.0 percent), and education and health services (1.9 percent).

There are a few grey clouds on the horizon from new regulations on banking and lending to new laws that have yet to be fully implemented. How businesses respond to the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act will likely have an impact on the economy. The other drag on an otherwise revving economy in Florida is the state’s high underemployment rate. Underemployment (U-6) refers to the percent of workers who either can’t find full-time work or have given up the search for work. Currently the national U-6 underemployment rate stands at 11.4 percent and has been in double digits for 78 straight months. In Florida the rate is 13.4 percent.

Snaith is a national expert in economics, forecasting, market sizing and economic analysis who authors quarterly reports about the state of the economy. Bloomberg News has named Snaith as one of the country’s most accurate forecasters for his predictions about the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate, the Federal Funds rate.

Want to hear Snaith speak about the economy? He’ll be speaking in Orlando on Jan. 23, 2015.

Snaith also is a member of several national forecasting panels, including The Wall Street Journal Economic Forecasting Survey, CNNMoney.com’s survey of leading economists, the Associated Press Economy Survey, the National Association of Business Economics Quarterly Outlook Survey Panel, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters, the Livingston Survey, Bloomberg U.S. Economic Indicator Survey, Reuters U.S. Economy Survey, and USA Today Economic Survey Panel.

The Institute for Economic Competitiveness strives to provide complete, accurate and timely national, state and regional forecasts and economic analyses. Through these analyses, the institute provides valuable resources to the public and private sectors for informed decision-making.