Make us your home page

Florida unemployment falls to 8.7 percent, but …

Florida's unemployment rate is still dropping at a surprisingly strong clip. Unfortunately, what's also falling is the number of Floridians who either have a job or are looking for work.

The unemployment rate fell from 9 percent in March to 8.7 percent in April, dipping to the lowest point in more than three years, but the state lost 2,700 jobs.

It's not unusual to have a disconnect between the unemployment rate, which is taken from a household survey, and the jobs numbers, which are based on feedback from employers.

Still, it underscores a recurring theme of this sluggish economic recovery: The plummeting unemployment rate looks better than reality because more people have dropped out of the labor force.

"The state of the labor market is not as good … as the press release (on unemployment) might suggest," said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith. "You couple the unemployment rate with payrolls falling and a shrinking labor force, and you get a more complete picture of a broken market still struggling to get on its feet."

Last month, Florida's labor pool — the number of people either working or looking for a job — dwindled by 28,000. Some of those exiting the labor market are retirees or others who have left the state in search of better prospects elsewhere.

One study by Moody's Analytics found that 60 percent of the 6.7 million who dropped out of the labor force across the country in April were employed at the time, an indication that a majority of dropouts could be retiring baby boomers.

Still, given that Florida's population continues to grow, economists believe a sizable number of the state's dropouts are workers who have temporarily given up their job hunt. Once they start looking for work again, the unemployment rate could rise.

State economists estimate Florida's unemployment rate would be higher than 16 percent if you add in discouraged job seekers and part-timers who would prefer to have full-time work.

Ironically, Snaith said, the healthiest sign of recovery may be the moment when unemployment starts to head up if it means discouraged workers are more confident that jobs are back.

Florida's dwindling unemployment rate has been good for the state's finances as well as its psyche. It means the state no longer has to pay extended federal unemployment compensation benefits. The extended benefits — which once provided up to 20 additional weeks of compensation for job seekers — were cut off on May 12.

"The unemployed have a tendency to give up looking once their unemployment insurance benefits expire," which would shrink the labor force even more, said Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg.

In a statement, Gov. Rick Scott focused on the latest jobless rate — which has closed the gap with the national rate of 8.1 percent — rather than jobs lost.

"This continued drop in Florida's unemployment rate is proving our economy is on the path to recovery and Floridians are getting back to work," Scott said. "With Florida being ranked as one of the top two states for business in the nation, employers are sure to continue expanding and moving to Florida, creating jobs that help us ensure this pattern will continue."

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate also fell substantially, from 8.9 percent to 8.5 percent. Like the statewide snapshot, Tampa Bay's rate dropped largely because its labor pool got smaller, down more than 13,000 people. The metro area lost 600 jobs between March and April.

Tampa Bay had been Florida's top job-creating metro year over year; the past two months it's been second behind Miami-Miami Beach.

Among area counties, Hernando remains hardest-hit with a jobless rate of 10.8 percent; Hillsborough and Pinellas counties were at 8.2 percent, the lowest in the region.

Statewide, professional and business services led the way, up a net 7,800 jobs from March to April. Construction remained the biggest drag. The state lost 9,200 construction jobs over the month, far more than any other industry. Over the year, Florida's already depressed construction sector shed 24,500 more jobs, more than any other state.

The second-biggest job loser last month was leisure and hospitality, down 4,800 jobs. Rebecca Rust, chief economist with the state Department of Economic Opportunity, attributed part of the job loss to Easter falling sooner in the calendar this year, leading to earlier, seasonal layoffs.

The overall drop in jobs in April, Rust said, was minimal.

"It's still a slow, modest recovery," she said, "and housing is holding it back from being stronger than it would otherwise be."

Jeff Harrington can be reached at or (727) 893-8242.

.Fast facts

County-by-county unemployment rates

Region April 2012 March 2012 April 2011

Citrus 9.6 % 10.2 % 11.3 %

Hernando 10.8 11.3 12.8

Hillsborough 8.2 8.5 10.2

Pasco 9.7 10.2 11.7

Pinellas 8.2 8.7 10

Flagler (high) 11.6 12.2 13.5

Monroe (low) 4.8 5 6.1

Tampa Bay* 8.5 8.9 10.5

Florida 8.7 9 10.5

Nation 8.1 8.2 9

*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 Department of Economic Opportunity

Florida unemployment falls to 8.7 percent, but … 05/18/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 18, 2012 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Early estimates peg Hurricane Irma damage at as much as $65B


    The damage totals from Hurricane Irma are still being tallied, but early numbers are in: As of Tuesday, the storm is estimated to have caused between $42.5 billion and $65 billion of damage. That's according to a Tuesday release by Irvine, Calif.-based analytics company CoreLogic.

    Hurricane Irma is estimated to have caused up to $65 billion in damage, said analytics company CoreLogic. Pictured is 
Hermilo Munoz Castillo as wades down a flooded street to check on his home in southern Collier County, Fla. after Hurricane Irma passed. | [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Port Tampa Bay makes public/private commitment for $60 million expansion project


    TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay approved a public-private partnership agreement with four other entities to divvy up who will pay for a $60 million widening and extension of the Big Bend Channel.

    Port Tampa Bay approved a participation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Electric Company and Mosaic Company at the port's monthly board meeting on  Tuesday. Port Tampa Bay President & CEO Paul Anderson signs the agreement as Ram Kancharla; Port Tampa Bay's vice president of planning & development, Brandon Burch; project manager at United States Army Corps of Engineers, Lois Moore; of Alcalde and Fay and Charles Klug; Port Tampa Bay principal counsel, and Tim Murphy; deputy district engineer of the Army Corps., looks on. [Company handout]
  3. One of St. Petersburg's newest condo projects is sold out

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. Records show that a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit sold Friday for $620,000 in an all-cash deal. Two other units — a 3-bedroom, 2-bath penthouse and a …

     Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. 
[Rendering courtesy of aalliiggnn LLC]
  4. Reload your SunPass account. Roadway tolls return Thursday.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida residents will no longer get a free pass traversing most stretches of the Florida Turnpike or certain local expressways across the state.

    With a push by the Florida Turpike to encourage more drivers traveling the Veterans and Suncoast Parkway to buy a Sunpass, motorists will begin to see more lanes converted to handle Sunpass. [Tampa Bay Times]
  5. Tampa Heights project gets $21.5 million in funding

    Real Estate

    TAMPA --- The Tampa-based Heights Community Development District got a financial boost from a $21.5 million tax-exempt bond issue to fund the waterfront community being built along the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa. Proceeds from the bond issue are expected to used for new roads, sidewalks, the Tampa …

    Tampa's Heights Community Development District got a financial boost from a $21.5 million tax-exempt bond issue to fund the waterfront community being built along the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa.
[Courtesy of Aerial Innovations, Inc.]