Unemployment in the Tampa Bay area took its sharpest one-month jump in recent history in May, rising to 5.6 percent, up from 4.9 percent in April and 3.7 percent just a year ago.
That put the local jobless rate slightly above both the national and statewide level, both of which were 5.5 percent in May. It ends a more than five-year run in which Florida and the Tampa Bay area unemployment ran below the national benchmark. Both state and local jobless rates are back where they were in 2003.
Florida and the Tampa Bay area's economy have deteriorated quickly since September, when job creation suddenly stalled and went in reverse. Over the past year, 74,700 jobs have been drained out of Florida. The sucking sound has been loudest in the Tampa Bay area, with 20,300 jobs gone since last May. More than half of the job losses statewide were related to construction.
Sean Snaith, economist at the University of Central Florida, predicts unemployment will continue to rise until 2009 as the state works its way through the housing bust. That should be sobering news to workers surveyed in the latest monthly report by Spherion, a Fort Lauderdale staffing company. In May, the survey's worker confidence index inched up and nearly 40 percent of workers said they were likely to look for a new job. According to Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation, the only sectors showing any signs of life are also those most likely to feel the strain of reduced public funding: education, healthcare and government.
-- Kris Hundley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2996.