Make us your home page
Instagram

State changes tale: Jobs disappearing

In a release of revised employment figures Friday, Florida officials knocked the legs out from under the Tampa Bay area's long-standing reputation as a hotbed of job creation.

Not only did the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area win the dubious distinction of being the biggest job loser in the state in January, with 11,700 fewer jobs than a year earlier, it also turns out that job growth stalled locally last spring and started eroding quickly in July, with the hemorrhaging continuing through the second half of the year.

While month-to-month estimates touted in news releases from Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation in 2007 were painting a rosy picture of jobs being created in the Tampa Bay area, data now show that the exact opposite was happening.

In September, for example, the state announced the Tampa Bay area had created 13,400 jobs while, in fact, it had lost 15,900 — a difference of 29,300 jobs.

The abrupt turnabout in fortunes shocked Ed Peachey, executive director of WorkNet Pinellas, which handles employment services in the county.

"I was totally caught off-guard by this,'' said Peachey, who initially thought the state's January job loss figure released Friday for the Tampa Bay area was a typo. "But I know we were seeing a significant increase in the number of people coming in, looking for work over the past six months and that wasn't being reflected in the unemployment rate."

Jerry Shaw, senior vice president of developer Opus South Corp. in Tampa, said he had been wondering for some time where all the supposed job growth was taking place.

"We've been misled,'' he said of the phantom employment figures. "We kept shaking our heads over these numbers, but good business people know what's going on. They're not relying on statistics."

Rebecca Rust, economist with the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation, said month-to-month job estimates are based on a small sampling of employers from each sector. At the beginning of each year, the department retroactively adjusts those estimates based on what employers paid in unemployment compensation tax, a far more accurate accounting of the workforce size.

"Data revisions are to be expected,'' Rust said. "When the economy is really strong, the benchmarks are generally up. When the economy slows, the revisions are down. And areas that were high in growth, that had a lot of construction, had further to fall in a slowdown."

Despite the stark discrepancy between estimates and the actual job numbers last year, there is no indication the state intends to change its method of preparing monthly estimates.,

"Our customers want data in a timely fashion, so we do the preliminary estimates based on employer surveys," Rust said. The revised figures, calculated once a year, are available on the state's Web site but are not issued in news releases.

After five years of Florida boasting lower unemployment rates than the national average, data released Friday showed the lines are converging. The revised numbers show the state's unemployment at 4.6 percent in January, edging up toward the national figure that month of 4.9 percent. January's jobless rate was Florida's highest since October 2004.

Meanwhile, national figures released Friday showed that the economy shed 63,000 jobs in February, the fastest falloff in the labor market in five years, even as the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 4.8 percent.

"I haven't seen a job report this recessionary since the last recession,'' said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., "This is a picture of a labor market becoming clearly infected by the contagion from the rest of the economy."

Sean Snaith, economist at the University of Central Florida, called it "economic purgatory," but held out hope for recovery.

"I'll admit it's a bit of a witches' brew with high energy prices, a housing market recession and credit market turmoil, but if we can get to the second half of the year when the stimulus hits, we may be able to pull out,'' he said.

"Otherwise," he added, "I'm getting fitted for a Goofy costume."

Reviewing the areas of strength in Florida's economy, David Denslow, University of Florida economist, said he was pleasantly surprised to see both retail and tourism employment remain steady in January. While health care is likely to remain a reliable source of jobs, he warned that education and government, strong job generators in the past, will be constrained this year due to tighter state and local budgets.

Even construction, which accounted for 75 percent of the job losses in the state, is likely to continue to post declines, Denslow said.

"As projects now under way are completed, the job numbers will fall more," he said. "They're going to get worse before they get better."

Temple Terrace resident A. Colin Flood hopes Denslow is wrong. Last year, when the state was boasting red-hot job growth in the Tampa area, Flood was frantically searching for work as a technical writer.

"I'd never really had to hunt for a job before, but things just came to a halt,'' said Flood, 49, who finally landed work with a Tampa software developer. "The job came just in time to save my house. But most of the people I know who were looking for work still can't find it."

Information from the New York Times was used in this report. Kris Hundley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2996.

Biggest job losses, gains by industry for Tampa Bay area

DOWN

Construction: -8,000 jobs

Professional and Business services: -5,700 jobs

Manufacturing: -2,400 jobs

UP

Education/Health: +4,600

Government: +3,700

Other Services: +800

Source: January 2008 vs. January 2007, Agency for Workforce Innovation

State changes tale: Jobs disappearing 03/07/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 11:41am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: Amid wealth inequality, is middle class losing habit of giving to charities?

    Business

    In the slow economic recovery since the nasty recession a decade ago, researchers are wondering if the hard times back then broke middle class America's habit of charitable giving.

    Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife and fellow doctor Pallavi Patel rank among the most generous philanthropists in the Tampa Bay area in recent decades. Their most recent giving: a $200 million pledge, consisting of a $50 million gift to Nova Southeastern University, plus $150 million to buy and build a Nova-affiliated medical education complex in Clearwater. The Patels also have given considerable sums to the University of South Florida and area hospitals. In this 2014 photo, the couple pose for pictures on the green carpet prior to a 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards event in Tampa. [Times file photo]
  2. Tampa Bay's Top 100 Workplaces deadline extended to Nov. 17

    Business

    Think you work at one of the best places in Tampa Bay? You've got a little more time to make a pitch.

    Penny Hoarder and Gregory, Sharer & Stuart were among those at an event in Tampa last May honoring winners of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces awards. Nominations are now open for this year.  
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Tampa-based Checkers testing delivery, aims for record expansion

    Retail

    TAMPA — Tampa-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants continues to fly under the radar compared to dominant burger chains like McDonald's and Burger King.

    Checkers Franchisee Shaji Joseph, of Tampa, hoses down the front walkway of his store at 6401 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park. The business has a new look including signage and exterior tile. One drive through has been eliminated for an outdoor dining area, right. Joseph owns nine Checkers and is planning to open his tenth in Tampa.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times ]
  4. City Council approves $5 million for Clearwater Marine Aquarium expansion

    Briefs

    CLEARWATER — The City Council on Thursday approved contributing $5 million to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for its massive expansion project.

    Clearwater has agreed to contributed $5 million to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium 
's $66 million expansion project.. [ Clearwater Marine Aquarium] 


  5. Trigaux: Florida, Tampa Bay lagging in growth of their startups

    Economic Development

    The annual assessment of how entrepreneurs are doing across the country is out from the Kauffman Foundation — among the best watchers of the nation's startup scene. How do Florida and Tampa Bay fare?

    Lured by financial incentives, startup GeniusCentral relocated from Manatee County in 2015 to St. Petersburg, promising to creatye 40 new jobs. It took downtown space in an appropriately creative workpace for entrepreneurs. It did not last there, later moving back to less expensive space in Manatee. A new Kauffman Index report on entrepreneurship found that Florida is a good place to launch startups but a tougher place to grow them.
[SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]