Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Business

Florida adds 23,000 jobs in September while unemployment rate is unchanged

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Florida can't move the needle to lower its unemployment rate, which remained stuck at 4.7 percent in September for the fifth straight month.

But that's not entirely a bad thing.

In fact, the jobs report released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity shows the state continues to make headway in its agonizingly long jobs recovery:

• Florida added a healthy 23,000 jobs over the month, third-best in the country behind Texas and California and down slightly from 24,500 in August.

• The unemployment rate is flat, in part, because Florida is growing the size of its labor force — both from out-of-staters moving here and the return of some sidelined job seekers who had not been counted in unemployment statistics during the period they had temporarily given up looking for work. The labor force includes both those who have a job and those actively looking for work.

"As wages are starting to get bid up with more attractive jobs, maybe some recent retirees or discouraged workers are coming back in," said Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg.

Here's one statistic that indicates more discouraged workers are coming back into the fold: The state's labor pool grew by 35,000 over the month, while its overall 16-and-up population (not including those in school or prison) grew by 28,000.

There's still plenty of slack, though, in absorbing new Floridians. Over the past year, the 16-and-up population grew by 309,000 while the labor force only grew by 87,000.

That's one reason why economists say it's premature to talk about Florida reaching full employment.

Gov. Rick Scott focused on the addition of 17,900 private-sector jobs over the month — or nearly 200,000 since December 2010 — during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning for Uniform Advantage's new headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.

Year over year, Tampa Bay has gained 30,800 jobs, slipping to third-best among Florida metros behind Orlando and the Fort Lauderdale region. The bay area's unemployment rate rose from 4.6 percent to 4.7 percent. Among area counties, Pinellas turned in the strongest performance with a 4.4 unemployment rate, followed by Hillsborough at 4.6 percent, Pasco at 5.3 percent, Hernando at 6.2 percent and Citrus at 6.7 percent.

Unlike the state numbers, local estimates are not seasonally adjusted, so they tend to fluctuate more month to month.

Contact Jeff Harrington at jharrington @tampabay.com. Follow @JeffMHarrington.

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