Jobless rates: Florida still among highest unemployed states but job momentum is growing
Until Florida can stop hemmorrhaging construction jobs, its economy can't stabilize. These folks sought jobs in 2010 at Tampa's Encore project, one of the larger building efforts now under way in the bay area. (Photo: John Pendygraft, Tampa Bay Times.)
Wake up and good morning. No question, Florida's rough unemployment situation is improving with last week's news that the state jobless rate fell to 9.4 percent in February from 9.6 percent in January. We need only listen to Gov. Rick Scott's monthly claims of success to know that much, even as the overall U.S. economy continues to show a gradual if sometimes spotty strengthening.
But how are we really doing? Let's look at some other U.S. states to gain a better sense of whether we are making a roaring comeback in the Sunshine State or a more tepid recovery. New numbers on all state employment situations from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics can help us draw a bead on where we are. I'll boil it down to a couple of points gleaned from BLS and the monthly Florida Department of Economic Opportunity numbers.
1. Florida was one of 29 states last week to report a decline in unemployment, while eight states had increases and 13 (including the District of Columbia) were unchanged. That's a plus.
2. Florida's unemployment of 9.4 percent remains 1.1 points higher than the national 8.3 percent jobless rate. How many other states are that high or higher than the national rate? Just a few. Nevada at 12.3 percent. Rhode Island at 11 percent. California at 10.9 percent. North Carolina and D.C. are both 9.9 percent. That's it. That's a negative.
3. Statewide, Florida added 72,300 jobs in the past 12 months, February 2011 to February 2012. While any increase helps, four other states added more jobs in the same period, lead by Texas with a whopping 273,900 jobs. It was followed by New York with 141,300, California with 127,300 and -- interestingly -- Ohio which edged out Florida with 73,500 additional jobs. Still, that's a plus.
4. Statewide, the sector gaining the most jobs (+27,800, up 1.9 percent) in the past year was "trade, transportation and utilities." Construction again lost the most jobs (-17,100, down 5.1 percent). That's a negative because we need construction to stabilize.
5. Of all major Florida metro areas, Tampa Bay lead the state in job creation this past year, adding 20,800 jobs, followed by the Miami area with 19,300 and Orlando's 7,300. The top job losers were Pensacola (-3,700), Gainesville (-2,500) and Port St. Lucie (-2,100). So that's a plus.
We're not exactly on a roll yet, but I'd say things are much improved. And that's a big plus.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times