Florida is experiencing a different kind of March Madness – it’s called Frozen madness, and residents should be thankful.

“Tourists are flocking to Florida, many of them wanting to build a snowman with Olaf or to sing ’Let it Go’ with Elsa, and that’s driving a good part of Florida’s economic upswing,” said Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist and director of the UCF Institute for Economic Competitiveness. “As a parent I dread it, but as a resident, I say bring it on.”

Construction, professional and businesses services, and leisure and hospitality are among the sectors seeing the most job growth according to Snaith’s March 2015 Florida Forecast released today.

“Not to get all Disney on you, but it seems Cinderella has arrived at the ball and she’s not leaving at midnight. She’ll be there at least through 2018,” Snaith said, equating Florida to another Disney character.

The new forecast indicates that housing starts, labor-force participation, personal income, gross domestic product and even retails sales will be growing over the next few years.

It’s quite a change from the recession years that saw Florida with some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation along with declines in most economic indicators.

The situation is so good that some people who had given up looking for work because they couldn’t find any are starting to actively look for jobs again. This is evidenced by a labor-force participation rate that is rising from 59.9 to 60.2 percent, according to Snaith.

For a look at the entire forecast including a breakdown by metropolitan region click here.

Among the highlights:

  • Payroll job growth year over year should average 3.1 percent in 2015, 2.5 percent in 2016, 2.1 percent in 2017, and 1.9 percent in 2018. Payrolls will recover to their prerecession highs in the 3rd quarter of this year.
  • Labor force growth in Florida will average 2.2 percent from 2015 to 2018. The faster pace of job creation has breathed new life into Florida’s labor market. 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 2015-2018 are construction (8.8 percent), professional and business services (4.3 percent), trade, transportation and utilities (3.6 percent), leisure & hospitality (2.6 percent), and education and health services (2.4 percent).
  • Housing starts continue to rise, but the pace of increase will slow as interest rates rise. Total starts will be over 107,000 in 2015, just over 128,000 in 2016, hit 145,300 in 2017, and level off at 150,600 in 2018.  Multifamily starts will hold a historically high share of total starts.
  • During 2015-2018, real personal income growth will accelerate and average 3.8 percent, with 4.3 percent growth in 2015 easing to 3.6 percent growth in 2018.
  • Retail sales will grow at an average pace of 4.8 percent during 2015-2018, helped by lower gasoline prices (from a year ago) that are raising consumer confidence and disposable income.
  • Snaith is a national expert in economics, forecasting, market sizing and economic analysis who authors quarterly reports on 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.

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

    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.