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Robert Trigaux

Amid tough Florida jobs news, any hints we're nearing a turning point? Maybe a few



Jobprotestsmlk2010ap Wake up and good morning. Florida's unemployment rate is up again but there are a few early signs that the state momentum of ever-higher jobless rate is easing.... certainly more so than what's happening in some other high-profile unemployment states. (Photo by AP.)

Florida's unemployment rate for December hit 11.8 percent, the state reported Friday, inching closer to breaking the state record of 11.9 percent set nearly 35 years ago. Here the St. Petersburg Times take on the numbers. Here's a less often reported angle:

"If those 31,000 (Floridians who dropped out of the workforce in the latest month) had been included as still looking for work, the state's unemployment rate would have been 12.1 percent. Add in all 163,000 Floridians who have dropped out of the labor force over the past year and the unemployment rate would be 13.4 percent."

Ouch. Still, there are a few signals the jobless flood may be easing in Florida. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, looked at all 50 states for some monthly trends. Here is the BLS report and here is Florida's state report on December unemployment. There are some modest silver linings for Florida in the December 2009 vs. November 2009 data:

* The largest over-the-month decrease in employment occurred in California (-38,800), followed by Texas (-23,900), Ohio (-16,700), Illinois (-16,300), Michigan (-15,700), Wisconsin (-15,200), and Georgia (-15,100).

The good news: Florida, though one of the largest states by population, is not listed. That suggests the increase in jobless is tapering off.

*  Michigan again recorded the highest unemployment rate among the states, 14.6 percent in December.
The states with the next highest rates were Nevada, 13.0 percent; Rhode Island, 12.9 percent; and South
Carolina, 12.6 percent.

The good news: Florida's 11.8 percent unemployment rate, though high, is not among the highest jobless (by percentage) states in the country.

* Over the year, 44 states experienced statistically significant changes in employment, all of which
were decreases. The largest statistically significant job losses occurred in California (-579,400), Texas
(-276,000), Illinois (-237,300), Florida (-232,400), and Michigan (-207,100).

The good news: From November to December, Florida is not among the 13 states with higher percentage increases of unemployed. One month is not a trend but it hints that the pace of job loss is slowing. Florida’s rate of job decline has moderated over the last few months, moving from -5.4 percent in March 2009 to -3.1 percent in December 2009.

Bottom line? If the job market is at least deteriorating more slowly, Florida has yet to reach the turning point on unemployment. That's why we're seeing stories like this one today coming out of Tennessee, as reported by The Tennessean:

"Some residents of states with even higher unemployment, like North Carolina and Florida, are moving to Tennessee in hopes of having better luck finding jobs... With Tennessee faring somewhat better than Florida, Tom Mikulski opted to move here after he was laid off from his management job at DHL shipping in Orlando, Fla., last June.

"Tourism and everything it supports was way down in Orlando, and opportunities in my field of transportation were not there," said Mikulski, who spent four weeks job hunting in Florida before moving inland to the Nashville area. Nashville's cost of living figures to be lower than Orlando's, he said, and the labor market looked much healthier."

Good  luck, Mr. Mikulski. Alas, the Tennesses story fails to mention whether he's yet to find work there, either.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:27am]


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