Slow recovery for economy in Miami area

The numbers kept getting scarier for George Joseph at the Dade County Federal Credit Union. It was early 2009, and each month Joseph's finance staff reported an alarming increase in customers giving up on loan payments. First the bad-debt tally doubled, then tripled.

``That's when I started to get the butterflies,'' said Joseph, president of the credit union where about 60 percent of the customers are Miami-Dade employees. ``This was really happening.''

Joseph sounds far more relaxed now as he describes the credit union's monthly reckoning: bad debts have returned to normal. Fewer customers are dropping off the keys to cars with loans they can't pay. And his mortgage staff once again has applications to process.

``In the last few months, I'm sensing a recovery,'' Joseph said. ``It's been a while.''

Recent economic numbers confirm Joseph's hunch. By all measures, recovery has begun across South Florida's economy and ended a brutal recession. The ports and airports are busier, housing prices have stabilized, consumers are spending more, and mass layoffs have become less common.

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