Hillsborough, Lee counties top job declines
A new look at how Florida counties are faring in employment just came out today from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics with some significant news for the Tampa Bay area. Especially Hillsborough County.
Of the 334 largest counties in the United States (measured by 2007 annual average employment), the largest decline in employment levels -- measured from the quarter ending June 2008 versus the same quarter of 2007 -- occurred in these counties: Maricopa, Ariz. (-55,100), followed by the counties of Riverside, Calif. (-29,400) and -- drum roll, please -- Hillsborough (-27,100). Throw in county employment declines in Orange, Calif. (-26,100), and Palm Beach, Fla. (-25,700) and the combined employment losses in these five counties over the year totaled 163,400. That's 41 percent of the employment decline for the U.S. as a whole. (Keep in mind 2008's huge job losses we clustered in the latter half of the year -- not included in this BLS data.)
So, put another way, two Florida counties (Hillsborough and Palm Beach) ranked in the top 5 in sheer declines of lost jobs from the quarter ended June '08 from June '07. Heady stuff.
Wait. There's more. Now look at county employment changes by percentages rather than by total numbers. Among the nation's big counties, the largest percentage decline in employment was in Lee County (where Fort Myers is) (-8.8 percent). Collier County (where Naples is) had the next largest percentage decline (-6.8 percent), followed by the counties of Sarasota, and Elkhart, Ind. (-6.5 percent each), and Marion (where Ocala is) (-6.0 percent).
So, Florida counties boasted four of the five biggest percentage declines in the nation -- again, that's the second quarter of 2008 versus the same quarter of 2007. Wow.
The BLS data for the second quarter of 2008 include wage numbers for major Florida counties. Among Tampa Bay area counties, Hillsborough offered the highest average weekly wage of $802, up 2.4 percent annually. Pinellas' average wage was $734, a 3.4-percent gain. And Manatee County, of those included in the BLS sampling, reported weekly wages of $674 -- a 1.9 percent decline over the year. It was the only county of the 22 cited in Florida with a drop in wages (Collier and Alachua did not report their annual changes).
Statewide, Florida's weekly wage averaged $762, up 2.6 percent. Nationally, the average was $841, also up 2.6 percent.
(Photo: Workers from Bayside Staffing last month preparing the parking lot for the new Ikea retail store opening later this year in Tampa. Photo by Carrie Pratt of the St. Petersburg Times.)
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist