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Florida's unemployment rate below 10 percent for second straight month

Florida's January job report was a bit contradictory.

The state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 9.9 percent in December to 9.6 percent in January, making it the second consecutive month that the rate has been below 10 percent, a feat that hasn't been achieved since 2009.

But Florida also lost more than 38,000 jobs during that same time period, more than any other state.

And while Florida's unemployment rate is steadily declining, it is still well above the national rate, which in January was 8.3 percent. Tuesday's reports also showed that the Florida labor force has diminished, meaning fewer people are actively seeking employment.

Economists aren't worried.

"[The recovery] continues, but it has not been a robust recovery and consequently the labor market has not been robust either," said Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist.

Part of the reason for optimism is that the first look at January numbers is notoriously unpredictable. The monthly snapshots are based on household survey data collected month to month.

Each year around this time, the Department of Economic Opportunity completes its annual benchmarking study, adjusting last year's monthly unemployment estimates using unemployment compensation tax records by employers instead of the less reliable household survey data.

For example, last January reportedly saw 12,900 jobs lost. That number has now been revised to a gain of 22,900 jobs, according to the DOE.

"Unfortunately, virtually all macroeconomic data that we have has some flaws to it," Snaith said.

Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial, said there is often "a lot of noise" in these monthly reports that can sometimes swing the data a certain way.

For instance, seasonal fluctuations may be responsible in part for the lost jobs in January, he said, and the unemployment rate is likely overstated because there was a decline in the labor force.

There are still many factors that could lead to an economic shift in the next year, among them the November presidential election, health care reforms and the looming end to the Bush tax cuts.

Still, Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner said, the Florida housing market is doing better and tourism is strong, so he expects the reported job numbers to be reversed for February.

"I don't have any doubt in my mind that Florida is firmly on the road to recovery," he said.

Elizabeth Behrman can be reached at lbehrman@tampabay.com.

County-by-county unemployment rates

RegionJan. 2012Dec. 2011Jan. 2011
Citrus11.3 %11.3 %12.7 %
Hernando12.8 12.7 14.3
Hillsborough9.5 9.5 11.2
Pasco11.2 11.4 12.9
Pinellas9.6 9.8 11.4
Flagler (highest)13.5 13.5 15
Monroe (lowest)5.7 6 6.9
Tampa Bay*9.9 10.111.7
Florida9.6 9.9 10.9
Nation8.38.59.1
RegionJan. 2012Dec. 2011Jan. 2011
Citrus11.3 %11.3 %12.7 %
Hernando12.8 12.7 14.3
Hillsborough9.5 9.5 11.2
Pasco11.2 11.4 12.9
Pinellas9.6 9.8 11.4
Flagler (highest)13.5 13.5 15
Monroe (lowest)5.7 6 6.9
Tampa Bay*9.9 10.111.7
Florida9.6 9.9 10.9
Nation8.38.59.1

*Combines Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties

Note: County and Tampa Bay area numbers are not seasonally adjusted. Florida and U.S. numbers are seasonally adjusted. U.S. rate fell to 8.9 percent in February.

Source: Department of Economic Opportunity

Florida's unemployment rate below 10 percent for second straight month 03/13/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 12:42am]

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