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Robert Trigaux

Tampa Bay boasts better momentum than most big metro areas nationwide in cutting jobless rate




ABOVE, JANUARY 2013: About 200 people stand in line awaiting of a job fair to open at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg.

BELOW, 2009: Hundreds of people lined up waiting to get into a job fair at the same location nearly four years ago. 


Wake up and good morning. The nation's latest unemployment rate (for January) comes out later this morning and many economists seems doubtful it will change from last months 7.8 percent.

But Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled this week shed some interesting light on what's happened over the last year in the jobless rates of hundreds of metro areas across the country. And, by this measure, Tampa Bay has a lot to crow about. It means about 28,000 fewer folks in the bay area were unemployed at the end of 2012 than at the start. (Even with some statistical fuzziness over how many folks were "looking" for work and were technically "unemployed" that's still a strong rebound.)

Between December 2011 and December 2012, the Tampa Bay metro area saw its unemployment rate drop from 10.1 percent to 7.9 percent, registering the second biggest percentage point decline (2.2 percentage points) among larger metro areas in the country. (Las Vegas dropped more, 3.3 percentage points, but consider this. Even after that decline, the Las Vegas jobless rate sits at 10.0 percent.)

The point? Tampa Bay's got some serious job momentum. Nobody's happy with 7.9 percent unemployed, but we're a lot more enthusiastic than we were a year ago at 10.1 percent. Besides, Tampa Bay's unemployment rate is now almost the same as the nation's jobless rate. That's telling in and of itself since Florida unemployment rates in recent years have stayed stubbornly higher than the country's as a whole by a large margin. Statewide, the jobless rate is 8 percent. Read more here from the Tampa Bay Times.

It also means Tampa Bay's jobless rate fell more than any of the other larger (more than a million in population) metro areas within Florida. On the other hand, Tampa Bay's jobless rate remains slightly higher than some other metro areas, though lower than greater Miami.

Here's the breakdown:

Metro area, latest unemployment rate, decline in percentage points

Tampa Bay, 7.9 percent, -2.2

Orlando, 7.6 percent, -2.0

Miami-Fort Lauderdale, 8.1 percent, -1.4

Jacksonville, 7.4 percent, -1.8

As the nationwide BLS data on metro areas show, right behind Las Vegas and Tampa Bay in the biggest jobless rate declines is Orlando (-2.0 percentage point). That's reassuring because it hints of a larger economic effect that may be under way: The sharper rebound of Central Florida. If Tampa Bay and Orlando (read more from the Orlando Business Journal)  are seeing big drops in unemployment, is that also happening in the smaller markets around here? Let's look:

Metro area, latest unemployment rate, decline in percentage points

Bradenton-Sarasota, 7.8 percent, -2.1

Ocala, 8.9 percent, -2.6

Fort Myers, 8.0 percent, -2.2

Lakeland-Winter Haven, 8.6 percent, -2.1

So the answer is yes. West central Florida metro areas saw a consistently sharp decline in jobless rates in 2012.

But isn't that happening in most places? Not at that pace of decline. Nationwide, BLS says, jobless rates in December 2012 were lower in 290 of 367 metro areas, higher in 68 and unchanged in 14. IN December, 47 metro areas still had jobless rates of 10 percent or higher, while 158 reported rates at 7 percent or less.

Metro jobless rates ranged in December from 3.1 percent in Midland, Texas (go energy business!) and 27.3 percent in Yuma, Ariz., where seasonal agricultural jobs dominate the local economy.

Will Tampa Bay's unemployment rate continue to drop so dramatically in 2013. Highly unlikely. (Read this Tampa Bay Times story on ongoing construction industry woes.) But it should be lower, perhaps in the low 7's. It's the right direction, whatever the pace.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times




[Last modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 7:37am]


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