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Florida adds 9,900 jobs in August, but unemployment unchanged

After a dismal July, Florida is adding jobs again — even faster than the rest of the country.

It's just not enough to make a dent in the state unemployment rate, which is expected to get worse before it gets better.

The state's unemployment rate for August remained at 10.7 percent for the third straight month, the sixth-highest rate in the country, according to figures released Friday by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI).

That's down from a peak of 12 percent in December, but don't look for it to fall much further anytime soon, according to the Florida Economic Estimating Conference. In a revised outlook, the group of statewide economists now predicts unemployment will rise to 11 percent by the end of this year and only drop down to 10.6 percent by the end of 2012. Essentially where we are now.

"Their overall optimism has been pulled back to some degree," said Rebbeca Rust, chief economist with AWI.

Among reasons for their pessimism:

• The sidelines are filled with discouraged workers ready to re-enter the job market whenever there are signs it's improving, which would drive up the unemployment rate. Also on the sidelines temporarily: More young people are either staying in school longer or delaying their entry into the labor force. Rust pointed out that the labor force participation rate among youths has fallen to its lowest level since the 1940s.

• The wind-down of military spending overseas is expected to curtail defense spending overall. U.S. Central Command at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, for instance, expects to reduce its staff here by about 1,100 positions in the next three to four years.

• More government cutbacks are anticipated as local and state governments budget for a low- to no-growth environment.

• Manufacturing, one of the early drivers of recovery, has stalled amid rising concerns of falling into another recession.

• The housing market remains troubled, with foreclosure filings rising 5 percent statewide between July and August (and 27 percent in the bay area over the same time), according to a RealtyTrac report.

Mark Vitner, senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities and longtime observer of Florida's economy, said it was encouraging that the state managed to add 9,900 jobs in August — a month that job creation was flat nationwide due in part to a Verizon strike. Florida "seems to be holding up a little better" than much of the country during this summer slowdown, Vitner said. Not only are all major Florida metros adding jobs again, but the rebound is broad-based.

"We're adding more jobs in professional services, which really is the bread and butter in Florida with regional offices," he added.

Then again, Vitner points out, the job gain numbers are somewhat inflated because if someone is working two or three part-time jobs, each one is counted as a separate job in the official count.

"It's going to take the better part of a decade for us to recover the losses we've seen in this recession," he said. "We're not going to get back to full employment before the end of this decade."

University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith described Florida's unemployment as stuck in a "purgatory of sorts."

"The only plus side from last month to this month is that the private sector started hiring again," Snaith said. "But government payroll cuts continue to weigh down overall job growth in the state."

Federal, state and local government led the way among job losers last month, down a combined 20,400 jobs since August 2010. But government wasn't alone. The decimated construction industry is still shedding jobs, down another 17,600 positions year over year.

On the positive side, the tourism industry continues to lead the pack in job creation, up 46,400 jobs over the year. Other growing industries include private education/health services (up 22,200 jobs) and trade, transportation and utilities (up 11,200 jobs).

The U.S. unemployment rate was 9.1 percent in August, unchanged from July.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at (727) 893-8242 or [email protected]

County-by-county unemployment rates

RegionAugust 2011July 2011August 2010
Citrus11.8 %11.8 %13.1 %
Hernando13.9 %13.6 %15 %
Hillsborough10.7 %11 %12.2 %
Pasco12 %11.9 %13.2 %
Pinellas10.7 %10.5 %12 %
Hendry (highest)17.9 %19 %19 %
Monroe (lowest)6.7 %6.6 %7.7 %
Tampa Bay*11 %11.1 %12.4 %
Florida10.7 %10.7 %11.6 %
Nation9.1 %9.1 %9.6 %

*Combines Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties

Note: County and Tampa Bay area numbers are not seasonally adjusted. Florida and U.S. numbers are seasonally adjusted.

Source: Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation

Step aside, Orlando

Tampa Bay and South Florida are the new leaders in job growth.

The bay area created a net 14,100 jobs in August, leading the way as 13 of Florida's 22 metro areas added jobs. Close behind was Miami-Miami Beach with 13,900 jobs and West Palm Beach with 8,100 jobs. Orlando, which had been driving the state's growth through tourism gains, added a more modest 3,600 jobs in August.

Year over year, the bay area is up a net 14,800 jobs, while Orlando is up 3,500 jobs.

"Sometimes areas that drop the most — and Tampa did lose a lot of jobs — when they start recovering, they can take the lead for a period of time because they have so much to gain," said Rebecca Rust, chief economist with the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, which releases unemployment statistics. She attributed the growth to leisure and hospitality and health care. Seasonal hiring of schoolteachers and personnel also added to payrolls.

In tandem with its job growth, Tampa Bay's unemployment rate fell slightly in August, from 11.1 percent to 11 percent.

The story lines varied widely among bay area counties. Hillsborough, for instance, improved to 10.7 percent from 11 percent, while Hernando worsened, with its jobless rate rising to 13.9 percent, up from 13.6 percent. The unemployment rate in other area counties: Pinellas was 10.7 percent (up from 10.5 percent); Pasco, 12 percent (up from 11.9 percent); and Citrus, 11.8 percent (unchanged).

Unlike state and national figures, regional figures are not seasonally adjusted so they tend to fluctuate more dramatically month to month.

— Jeff Harrington, Times staff writer

Florida adds 9,900 jobs in August, but unemployment unchanged 09/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 11:14pm]
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