Friday, February 23, 2018
Business

Florida adds 30,600 jobs in March but unemployment rate stays flat

Florida kept creating jobs last month, but not enough in higher-paying categories and not enough to nudge down its unemployment rate.

The jobless rate stood unchanged at 5.7 percent in March, after both February and December's rates were revised upward from 5.6 percent.

That puts Florida above the national unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.

Chris McCarty of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic Research sounded underwhelmed by Friday's report from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

"It's the same old story," McCarty said. Job creation "has been looking pretty good, but wages have not been keeping up."

Overall, the state added 30,600 jobs over the month. But many of those jobs remained clustered in lower-paying industries like tourism and retail.

Leisure and hospitality was the single biggest job creator both over the month (up 8,100 jobs) and year-over-year (up 54,800 jobs). Coming in second was trade, transportation and utilities (up 54,700 jobs the past 12 months), a broad category that includes retail workers.

In metro areas, job figures are not adjusted for seasonal changes. That's a big reason why Tampa Bay was down 1,600 jobs over the month. But because the size of its labor pool shrank even more, the bay area's unemployment rate improved from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent.

Nearly a third of the 34,500 jobs added in Tampa Bay over the past year are in leisure and hospitality.

McCarty said he's concerned that both retail and tourism are reliant on consumers confident in spending money.

"Those are the kinds of jobs that frankly are vulnerable whenever there's another big recession," he said. "We're just sort of setting ourselves up again, I think."

During a stop in Miramar, Gov. Rick Scott focused on private sector job growth, including more than 29,000 private jobs added in March alone.

"During the four years before I became governor, Florida lost over 820,000 private sector jobs. We have now gained back all of the jobs that were lost, and we will remain focused on doing everything we can to bring even more jobs and opportunities to the families in Florida," Scott said during his visit to Kellstrom Defense Aerospace, an aviation products manufacturer that is expanding its South Florida operations to create 20 new jobs.

All industries except for information have added jobs over the year.

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