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Robert Trigaux

Orlando dominates Florida job rebound but too many are "want fries with that?" positions



mcdonaldsdrive-thru.jpgWake up and good morning. Things are looking up in many job markets. New U.S. Labor Department data show more than 300 cities have seen their unemployment rates decline in the past year. That's the best showing since the recession ended in June 2009. And 284 metro areas reported job gains in the past year. That's also the most since the recession ended. Here's a good AP look at the national scene.

Even Florida's major metro areas, pummeled for so long, are showing positive job growth and lower unemployment rates since a year ago. Statewide, Florida gained 49,700 jobs between February 2010 and February 2011. Even Tampa Bay got a piece of that, adding 6,300 jobs in that period of time.

What's curious and worthy of a red flag warning, though, is how lopsided Florida's job rebound is, so far. Orlando -- theme park and tourism capital of America -- added 22,900 jobs in the last year. That translates to 46 percent of all jobs added in the year between 2/10 and 2/11 were in Tourist Town. And that means a very large number of the jobs created in Florida in the past year are lower-wage positions. Thank you, Harry Potter...

Specifically, 15,000 of those 22,900 Orlando jobs are tourism jobs. Notes (hereOrlando Sentinel economics writer Jim Stratton:

"A look at where those jobs are coming from raises questions about how much punch Central Florida's economic rebound will pack -- at least in the near future. The region's job growth is being driven by the leisure-and-hospitality industry — the bars, restaurants, hotels and theme parks that typically rely on an army of low-paid workers to serve beer, sling nachos and clean rooms. It's a sector dominated by young people and unskilled labor making relatively little money and, in many cases, working without benefits."

Hey, better those jobs than none, right? But you can drink that Kool-Aid for only so long. Florida desperately needs to stop yapping about creating better paying jobs and needs to start delivering on some of those. Here's the breakdown of new jobs in the past year by some major metro areas in the state:

1. Orlando: +22,900
2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale: +11,600
3. Tampa Bay: +6,300 (remember, Tampa Bay's metro area is bigger than Orlando's but created  less than one-third as many jobs)
4. Jacksonville: +3,300
4. (tie) Pensacola: +3,300 (you have to wonder how much of this was distorted by BP's oil spill and money in the clean-up)
6. Panama City: +1,200 (see Pensacola, above)
7. Sarasota-Bradenton: +1,100

Other Florida markets lost jobs in the past year, notably Fort Myers-Cape Coral (-3,000), Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (-2,000) and Sebastian-Vero Beach (-1,100) and Ocala (-1,000).

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times

[Last modified: Thursday, April 7, 2011 7:38am]


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