Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

Job rebound on track, Florida should refocus on skills to handle higher-pay work

It's about time.

The Florida economy created just fewer than a quarter million jobs over the past 12 months, an impressive number that represents the biggest annual April-to-April job gain since 2006.

That's before the last recession struck.

The latest numbers suggest fresh momentum in job creation in Florida. The 246,800 jobs created over the past 12 months more than doubled the 119,100 created over the same period a year earlier. And the 119,100 jobs were already up from 52,600 a year earlier.

This rebound is not Mission Accomplished by any means. Nor is this some testament to the economic genius of our political leaders despite all their insistence. We've all been too easily brainwashed to believe complex ups or downs of state, national and global economies are driven by governors and presidents when they really play minor roles.

But the Florida economy, which stalled in the last downturn and lost more than 380,000 jobs between April 2008 and April 2009, is clearly shifting gears.

Unemployment rates in the state are at least re-entering the low 6 percent and even upper 5 percent ranges, which is at least creating some economic breathing room after a dreadful period of double-digit jobless rates.

Nationwide, Florida's 246,800 jobs gain over the past 12 months trails only California (plus-340,200) and Texas (plus-348,000), two substantially larger states. Consider that Florida's gains crushed the puny 79,100 jobs created by New York despite the two states being neck and neck in population.

Florida tops all of the larger population states with a 3.3 percent pace of job creation over the past 12 months. Only two smaller population states, Nebraska and Nevada, fared better when measured this way.

Lately, Florida seems to be holding its own. The largest over-the-month (April 2014 versus March 2014) increases in employment occurred in Texas (plus-64,100), California (plus-56,100) and Florida (plus-34,000).

Locally, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area added 30,900 jobs over the past 12 months, representing a 2.6 percent growth rate. The metro area trailed the slightly smaller Orlando region, which generated 47,200 jobs over the same past 12 months at an aggressive growth rate of 4.5 percent. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville grew at faster annual rates for jobs over that period.

So where is Florida's economy heading this year? The state's 6.2 percent unemployment rate — and Tampa Bay's 5.9 percent rate – should drift lower over the coming months but at a slowing pace as we start to settle into the historical range of unemployment typical of a growing economy.

If we can now focus anew on creating higher-wage jobs and actually give Floridians the 21st century skills to handle such tasks, we will, indeed, be back in the fast lane.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

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