About 3 years ago in the depths of the recession, contractor George Cuesta was once hoping to land a small resort renovation process in South seaside. He didn’t get it, however no one else did either. The gutted construction sat idle off twenty second side road when the investment fell aside, as pigeons nested at the exposed beams inside and vandals spray-painted the cinderblock partitions.

Under the control of a new owner, the old hotel on Park Avenue is once again on Cuesta Construction’s sights, and this time he’s pretty sure he’ll soon sign a contract and send a construction crew in there to jumpstart the stalled venture.

“There’s a lot of investors looking at these sort of projects on the Beach,’’ Cuesta said as he walked the sand floor of the shuttered 46-room hotel. “They want to get started again.”

Such optimism might sound familiar. each 2010 and 2011 began with a rising consensus that momentum was development in the back of a recovery. consumer trust reinforced around the united states and in Florida, house prices gave the impression to stabilize, and the stock market rallied.

however the rebounds never stuck, continuing a shaky development that has proven to be South Florida’s weakest economic recovery in a minimum of generations — and most probably for the reason that nice despair.

A review of statistics going back to the 60s helps explain the fitful recovery that continues to keep unemployment levels at near records in South Florida and housing prices depressed. No recession in the last four decades has caused such lasting damage.

Since the 1970s, South Florida has rebounded from five recessions much faster than it has since the so-called Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. Until now, the longest recovery in hiring took 35 months, the stretch of time required to erase the 45,000 jobs South Florida lost in the 1973-75 recession.

Forty-four months after payrolls began shrinking all the way through the 2007 downturn, South Florida continues to be down 207,000 activitys from top hiring ranges in 2008.

Anemic process enlargement is the primary problem. In earlier recessions, it took at such a lot 3 years for Miami-Dade payrolls to start increasing by 2.5 % a month, the typical expansion price among downturns for Florida’s largest exertions market.

but just about 4 years after hiring first began to agreement in Miami-Dade County, employment handiest recently hit 1.eight percent growth in Miami-Dade. For all of South Florida, the percent is sdecrease — tasks are rising at about 1.4 p.c a month, well in the back of the typical of three.6 p.c a month outside of recessions.

the largest supply of the hiring lag: a construction industry down just about 80,000 jobs from top hiring levels. That quantities to just about 40 p.c of the roles South Florida would want to erase employment losses from the recession.

The housing melancholy brought on an international banking problem that lingers. Miami-Dade now loses extra processs in finance every month than from building. those endured losses from the mortgage industry and insurance coverage companies are diluting the gains made by way of document hiring in the healthcare and hospitality trade.

“whenever you’ve a monetary trouble, the recovery takes a long time,’?? mentioned Robert Cruz, head economist for Miami-Dade County. “There are clouds available in the market.”

That anemic p.c. is helping explain why nearly 3 yrs into the legitimate recovery, economists are only now beginning to feel positive that the rebound will in spite of everything get traction this year and push South Florida again into a robust growth mode.

New housing numbers once again look promising. Unemployment charges in South Florida were dropping since June. auto gross sales are up, spending maintains to grow, and shopper confidence has regained flooring misplaced right through an fearful 20eleven.

“other folks feel good, they usually’re going out and spending more,’?? said Juan del Busto, who runs the Miami department of the Federal Reserve in Doral. whilst optimism was once building in 2011, del Busto said he didn’t partake within the birthday party.

“From January on, I noticed issues taking place, , ,’?? he stated. “I don’t see that this year.”

still, each and every week brings a combined bag of financial numbers.

The Dow Jones business moderate last week crossed thirteen,000 for the first time due to the fact 2008, only to lose ground within the face of disappointing experiences on personal source of revenue and production output. in the closing three0 days, gas prices in South Florida jumped five p.c to $3.83 a gallon. That’s up eleven % from a 12 months in the past, a troubling trajectory given the force it’s going to placed on household spending within the heart- and lower-elegance.

And within the wake of nationwide banks signing a take care of regulators on foreclosures irregularities, analysts expect a flood of repossessed houses to hit the fragile housing market this year . Moody’s predicts house values will drop another 12 percent in South Florida this yr thanks to foreclosure sales, a surprising drop that may roll back actual estate to values final observed within the fall of 2001.

So the place does the optimism come from in 2012?

SPENDING: Taxable sales in South Florida posted their 22nd month of yearly growth in December, expanding more than 7 percent for the first time since the end of 2006. Business spending has been a drag, growing at a slower pace than overall sales since 2009, according to Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. But in recent months, that gap has narrowed, and business investment in South Florida ended 2011 up 3.5 percent in Broward and 8 percent in Miami-Dade.

Freddy Balsera, who runs a communications firm in Coral Gables, said he’s seen an end to a long slump in client spending as 2011 came to a close.

“We’re finally seeing a pick-up,’’ said Balsera, president of Balsera Communications. “It’s kind of a luxury to do communications and PR. We were the first to get cut. But we’ve signed up four new clients in the last two months.”

HIRING: Unemployment appears very much on the mend. First-time jobless claims continue to plunge — down 28 percent in Broward and 29 percent in Miami-Dade, according to the most recent reports. While nearly 16,000 people applied for their first unemployment checks in January, the region’s overall jobless rate dropped from nearly 12 percent at the end of 2010 to 9.6 percent in December.

Job growth for the region hit 1.4 percent in December, still well below the average expansion rate of 3.6 percent, but the highest since May 2007.

The crowded floor of Compuquip Technologies’ command center in Doral helps explain why this recovery is taking so long.

Eighteen techies man computers, chatting in headsets and clicking keyboards as they walk customers from as far away as Kentucky through whatever desktop crisis faces them this weekday morning. The remote help center picked up millions of dollars worth of contracts in the recession as companies outsourced their IT work to cut costs.

“If you can invest in technology, you can do more with less,’’ Chairman Alberto Dosal said.

Yet his sales ledger hints at recovery. Only in recent months has Compuquip seen a big increase in sales across the board — from computer equipment to services. “We’ve had the best quarter we’ve ever had in 31 years,’’ he said. “Many of our new clients are reinvesting just because they haven’t done anything in the past five years.”

HOUSING: As South Florida’s real estate market begins its sixth year of a historic depression, a bottom still remains elusive. At least officially.

The Case-Shiller housing index, the most widely watched measure of real estate values, posted a tiny gain in December in South Florida while most other metropolitan areas continued to lose ground. But it was less than a 1 percent increase, and Case-Shiller has recorded two- and three-month blips of recovery for South Florida since 2009 only to have the losses return.

Making gains
But another index — this one calculated by a federal housing agency — shows more promise. The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s index on home values in Broward gained 2.8 percent during the second half of 2011, while Miami-Dade homes gained 1.8 percent. It was the first stretch of back-to-back quarterly gains since the fall of 2006 for Broward and the summer of 2007 for Miami-Dade.

Miami-Dade managed to post record number home sales in 2011, with 24,929 sales of condominiums and single-family houses, according to the Miami Association of Realtors. That’s up four percent from the prior peak in 2005, though sales of houses alone remain about 25 percent below boom levels.

The gains have been enough to breathe a little life into construction. Permits for single-family homes have more than doubled in Broward since a year ago, from about 70 a month to 150. In Miami-Dade, gains have been more spotty but permits ended the year up 9 percent to just under 70 a month.

Permits are still down 83 percent from their peaks in 2004, an astounding slowdown in a real estate collapse that economists think basically has no comparison in the post-war era. “You would maybe have to go back to the Depression to see numbers like that,’’ said Cruz, the Miami-Dade economist.

Speciality work
For Cuesta’s construction company, the days of major projects requiring dozens of laborers and specialty contractors has given way to an era of more modest renovations. After a quick tour of the ramshackle Park Avenue hotel that he hopes to renovate, the 38-year-old stopped by another small job: redoing an upstairs apartment at the chic Barton G restaurant for a private dining room and lounge. Four Cuesta workers slammed axes through drywall and ripped up flooring using claw hammers.

“There used to be a lot more ground-up construction,’’ Cuesta said after the tour. He said that if the worst is behind his company, the end of the slump only came recently. “We’re on the tail end of our slowest year.”

He blamed the lack of big ventures on a sense that land values are stalled at the bottom of the market. Why purchase land — even at distressed prices — for a commercial venture if there’s little risk that the price is going to go up any time soon?

“Until there is a threat to land owners that values are going to go up, they’re not going to pull the trigger’’ on a construction project, he said. “Until there is a real risk of prices going up, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of movement. Hopefully, by the end of the year, you’ll see an increase in some prices.”