No debate here: Florida's unemployment rate continues to drop — even as more people move to Florida and enter the workforce. What's not to like?
The trick, of course, is to gauge where the Sunshine State stands in comparison to the other 49 states and the District of Columbia, as well as the nation as a whole.
That U.S. comparison is easy. Florida's jobless rate in June fell to 4.1 percent, down from 4.3 percent in May and from 4.9 percent in June 2016. The national unemployment rate, which Florida has closely tracked in recent months, actually rose to 4.4 percent in June from a 16-year low of 4.3 percent in May, but was down from 4.9 percent a year earlier. June's national uptick was viewed as a positive sign more people are entering the workforce, as the labor-force participation rate increased to 62.8 from 62.7 percent the month before.
All good for Florida's economy, so far. Let's take a closer look at where Florida stands among its peer states. Here are five takeaways based on new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
1. Florida's job market still has momentum. Florida was one of just 10 states with lower unemployment rates in June than in May. Two states saw their rates rise while jobless rates remained stable in 38 states and D.C.
2. Compared to Florida, half of all states — 25 — have lower unemployment rates. That means this state hardly has a lock on a tight job market. Not even close. Colorado and North Dakota are tied with the lowest jobless rate of 2.3 percent in June.
3. Florida, usually a leader in adding jobs month to month, did not quite make the cut in June. The largest increase in employment over the month versus May occurred in Texas (+40,200), followed by Georgia (+27,400) and New York (+26,000). Florida trailed with a still respectable gain of 19,400.
4. Over the past year, though, Florida remained a top job generator even as it fell behind rival Texas. When this state outperforms Texas in sheer job growth, Florida Gov. Rick Scott loves to crow about it —and he has had ample opportunity to do so in recent years. Less so, now. In the past year ending in June, the largest job gains occurred in Texas (+319,300), California (+261,400) and Florida (+238,600). Keep in mind Texas and California are much bigger states in population. When measuring job growth by percentage, Florida's annual gain rose 2.9 percent, beating Texas and California, and ranking third nationwide behind Nevada (+3.8 percent) and Utah (+3 percent).
5. Hey, Florida isn't Alaska or New Mexico, right? Alaska had June's highest jobless rate, 6.8 percent, followed by New Mexico at 6.4 percent. Even those "high" rates are hardly alarming, especially after the country's last withering recession.
So what does this jobs snapshot mean for Florida? The state is doing well but could do better, based on the bulk of U.S. states with lower unemployment rates than here.
There remains the matter of boosting job pay and income. Florida paychecks still land close to the bottom third among states. To borrow the Guv's phrase: Let's get to work.
Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com. Follow @venturetampabay.