For a state still clawing out of a recession and for a bay area still too prominent on "economically troubled" lists, take heart — if not near-term job hope. A look at the latest quarterly performances of more than a dozen of the larger publicly traded corporations based here suggests a groundswell of improvement is under way.
Among 14 corporations reviewed, 12 report stronger earnings in the latest available quarter (mostly ending June 30). Especially robust performances were reported by Clearwater's computer parts distributor Tech Data Corp. (our largest public company by revenue by far) and oxygen supplier Lincare, St. Petersburg's global electronic manufacturer Jabil Circuit and electronic retailer HSN, and Tampa's wireless infrastructure provider Syniverse Holdings. (See table for details.)
At HSN, leveraging new demands in a tighter economy, CEO Mindy Grossman says the company relaunched its lawn and garden business. The result? A significant sales increase "reflecting consumers' desire to manage many household tasks on their own to save both time and money." Grossman sees additional potential for this category in 2011.
A few of the 14 businesses struggled. Tampa's WellCare Health Plans still is fighting and paying off fraud allegations, so much so that it was the only business among the 14 to report a quarterly loss.
Surprisingly, call center giant Sykes Enterprises fell out of the fast lane after such a good run through the teeth of the recent recession. Shares have fallen dramatically.
Add these 14 firms altogether, though, and their performance says our core, local companies here in Tampa Bay are emerging from a wretched economic downturn with a momentum not seen in years.
Does that mean new hiring is just around the corner? No way.
Many of these area companies, like most nationwide, jettisoned workers rapidly in the dark times of 2007-09. Managers remain skeptical that the economy really has turned for the better, even if the quarterly numbers hint of a rebound. It will take several quarters yet of quality returns, and more time for the economy to escape the threat of a double-dip recession, before new hiring of any significance becomes common.
But look at it this way. Companies need exactly the strengthening quarterly numbers you see in the accompany table to build the confidence needed to consider adding workers.
One step at a time.
A small bright spot for jobs is that U.S. worker productivity dropped this spring for the first time in more than a year. That's a sign that companies may need to step up hiring if they hope to grow.
Don't hold your breath just yet.
Robert Trigaux can be reached at email@example.com.