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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Aug. 27, 201312:00 PM EST

Florida still leads US in foreclosures

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

For the third month in row, Florida was the nation's foreclosure capital in July, according to the latest monthly economic overview report by the Florida Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

Citing data from housing market research firm RealtyTrac, last week's report said Florida cities took nine of the top 10 spots on the list of highest foreclosure rates in the nation.

If that isn't bad enough news for Northeast Florida residents, consider this: Jacksonville jumped into the No. 1 spot for foreclosure activity in July.

RealtyTrac reports that one out of every 230 housing units in the Jacksonville metropolitan area was in foreclosure in July, the highest of any metro area with more than 200,000 people.

This shouldn't be a surprise, because the previous month's report showed that Jacksonville ranked third in the country behind two other Florida cities, Miami and Orlando, over the first six months of the year.

However, RealtyTrac said foreclosure activity in the Jacksonville area jumped by 19 percent from June and that the July rate was up 24 percent from the previous year.

Miami fell to the second spot last month with one in every 250 housing units in foreclosure.

Statewide, one of every 328 homes in Florida was in foreclosure in July, up 8 percent during the month and 7 percent higher than the previous year.

On the bright side, the number of foreclosure starts in July was 28 percent lower than July 2012, RealtyTrac said.

The only city outside of Florida in the top 10 was Albuquerque, N.M., which ranked sixth.

Aside from Jacksonville moving into the top foreclosure slot, there was little change in the economic office's monthly report. The housing market continues its recovery but still has a way to go to return to pre-recession levels, it said.

"Building permit activity, an indicator of new construction, is back in positive territory," the report said. After growing by 32.4 percent in 2012, statewide permits were up 46.2 percent in the first six months of 2013, "but the level is still low by historic standards," it said.

The report said the turnaround in Florida's housing market will be driven by "low home prices that begin to attract buyers and clear the inventory; long-run sustainable demand caused by continued population growth and household formation that has been pent-up; and Florida's unique demographics and the aging of the baby-boom generation."

Florida's unemployment rate has dropped from 9.4 percent in December 2011 to 7.1 percent in July 2013, but the report continues to say that much of the decline has come from people who have dropped out of the labor force. When jobless people are not actively looking for work, they are not counted as unemployed.

The report said if the labor participation rate in July was the same as in December 2011, the true unemployment rate would have been 8.2 percent.

"Florida's growth rates are gradually returning to more typical levels. But, drags are more persistent than past events, and it will take a few more years to climb completely out of the hole left by the recession," it said.

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