Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

Florida unemployment dips again to 4 percent in August

Florida's unemployment numbers are inching down again to the lowest point in more than a decade.

The state's jobless rate dropped to 4 percent in August, down from 4.1 percent in July, according to state figures released Friday. The national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent for the month.

"The fact that it continues to go down is a sign of ongoing strength in hiring because the labor force year-over-year continues to grow at a rapid pace," Sean Snaith, economist at the University of Central Florida, said.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate matched the state's at 4 percent. Hillsborough County dropped from 4.1 percent to 3.9 percent, and Pinellas dipped slightly from 3.8 percent to 3.7 percent. Hernando slid from 5.3 percent in July to 5.2 percent in August, while Pasco inched down from 4.5 percent to 4.4 percent over the month.

Florida's unemployment rate in July remains steady at 4.1 percent

Among major industries, construction again gained the highest number of jobs over the year across the state — 35,000 — which made Florida No. 2 for construction job growth over the year. The only state to outpace the Sunshine State was California with 47,400 jobs, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Florida also had the second highest jump in construction jobs from July to August at 3,100. It was outpaced by Maryland, which added 3,200 jobs.

Tampa Bay had the second highest job growth over the year — 36,000 jobs.

Despite a drop in unemployment over the past few months, economists say any excitement should be tempered by the lack of growth in wages. Typically, when the unemployment rate goes down and people are entering the workforce, wages should theoretically be going up. But they have stagnated in recent years.

UCF's Snaith said that it finally appears that change may be on the horizon.

"I think we're getting pretty close to an acceleration in wage growth," he said. One anecdotal but telltale sign, he said, is the emergence of signing bonuses for new hires, even at lower-paid positions.

What remains to be seen is the damage that Hurricane Irma wreaked on the state. Most of Florida's metropolitan areas were slammed by the storm, affecting potentially thousands of jobs.

Going into the next few weeks, damage assessment will shed more light on the economic impact of the storm, but Snaith said the effects likely will not be longterm.

"It's still a solid jobs market," Snaith said. "I think it will continue to be after the bump in the road that Hurricane Irma created."

Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.

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