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Robert Trigaux

5 things to know about Florida's slowly improving job market


Largo's Ditek Corp., a bright spot in manufacturing in the Tampa Bay bay area, plans to add employees. Above, workers assemble and test surge protectors. (Photo: Cheri Diez, Tampa Bay Times.)

Wake up and good morning. We learned last week that Florida's unemployment rate continues to dip and now stands at 8.7 percent. That's a horrendously, punishingly high number that actually looks terrific to us here in the Sunshine State after years of double-digit jobless numbers.

Now let's put a bit more meat on the bones of Florida's job market so we have a better sense of where we stand. Here are 5 things to know about Florida (un)employment right now.

1. Pink slips are still happening to large groups of people. Just less often. Florida had 70 "mass layoff" actions in April, down from from 98 in April of 2011. Translated? That means 4,900 Floridians lost their jobs in these cutbacks compared to 7,600 a year earlier. Read more in this South Florida Sun Sentinel story.

2. The number of Florida counties with double-digit unemployment (Flagler (highest at 11.6 percent), Dixie, Hendry, Hernando and St. Lucie) fell to five in April from ten in March and from a whopping 31 counties in April 2011. Read the 5/18/12  state data here.

3. During the downturn, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics routinely lumped Florida's high jobless rate among those states with the highest margins above the national unemployment rate. No more, as this BLS release (see Table A) shows. The highest unemployment rates are now Nevada (11.7 percent), Rhode Island (11.2 percent) and California (10.9 percent). And plenty of other states now post higher jobless rates than Florida's 8.7 percent, including North Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia and the District of Columbia.

4. Florida posted the third largest drop in unemployment over the past year -- dropping 1.9 percentage points -- among the states. Only Michigan (down 2.2 percentage points) and Alabama (down 2 percentage points) had a steeper drop. See Table B in the BLS release.

5. Florida added 52,600 jobs in the past year, from April 2011 to April 2012. Is that good compared to other states? The big job gainers are Texas (225,800), California (175,600), New York (131,000), a surprising Michigan (59,300) and Indiana (54,200). So Florida is 6th in annual job gains.

Yes, Florida lost jobs in April versus March. Yes, more Floridians stopped looking for work, which statistically helped make the jobless rate lower. Yes, Florida is awash in underemployed workers and part-timers. Yes, many jobs being created in Florida do not pay much.

But the state's still better off than it was in 2011, 2010 and 2009.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times

[Last modified: Thursday, May 24, 2012 11:19am]


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