Sunday, December 10, 2017
Business

Florida unemployment rate falls to 8.5 percent

Goodbye, summer slump.

Florida's job market is squarely back in recovery mode, according to an upbeat employment report for October, which was released Friday. Among encouraging signs:

• Florida's unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent last month, reaching the lowest point in nearly four years.

• Tampa Bay's jobless rate plummeted from 8.8 percent to 8.2 percent, with even long-suffering Hernando County finally dipping down into single-digit unemployment for the first time since October 2008.

• The state added 14,700 jobs over the month while the number of unemployed Floridians fell by 20,000, knocking the total number of jobless below 800,000.

• Even construction, the hardest-hit industry of all, has added jobs two straight months as the housing market improves.

The state's unemployment rate still lags the national number of 7.9 percent and remains far shy of 6 percent, the upper end of what typifies a healthy economy.

Still, Mekael Teshome, an economist with PNC Financial Services, is confident Florida has positive momentum.

"The healing of the labor market is genuine," Teshome said. "The recovery is for real in our view."

Florida's numbers are consistent with the "persistent and moderate" recovery throughout the country, with the latest national job creation figures beating expectations.

Teshome doesn't fear the gradual recovery will get derailed by looming uncertainties like the fiscal cliff facing the national budget, turmoil in the Middle East and Europe slipping into recession again. "We do have a number of headwinds that will create some volatility," he forecasts, "but fundamentally, we're in a recovery mode."

Doug Arms, senior vice president in Tampa for Ajilon Professional Staffing, said the report validates what he has been hearing from his clients for a while. "The need for skilled employees has never been greater," he said. "Statistically, things are clearly better than they were."

The problem, he says, is that it's hard for people to feel better about a slowly improving economy when they're earning less money and still queasy about job security.

Overall, Florida is up 67,600 jobs year over year. Tampa Bay has added 19,300 jobs over that time, making it runner-up to Orlando as the top job-creating Florida metro.

Professional and business services topped all industries, gaining 25,600 jobs since October 2011. State and local government remained the biggest loser, shedding 12,900 jobs year over year, even though it added a net 2,600 jobs this past month.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has been aggressively pushing government job cuts, keyed in on the creation of 12,100 private sector jobs in October as the most encouraging number, particularly as the holidays are approaching.

"We are creating an environment that fosters job creation, economic development and provides a skilled workforce," he said in a statement. "My number one goal is to create jobs for Florida families and get this state back to work. There is still more work that needs to be done, but I'm confident we're on the right path."

State economists have said the dramatic drop in Florida's jobless rate from 10.2 percent a year ago can be deceptive. Thousands of discouraged workers have temporarily given up looking for work, so they are no longer counted in the state's labor force and are not factored into unemployment calculations.

Nevertheless, October was strong on that front as well. The state's labor force grew by 40,000 over the month, more than offsetting a growth of 20,000 in the age 16-and-up population.

Rebecca Rust, chief economist with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said that likely means more discouraged workers are finally re-entering the workforce.

Rust cited a labor breakdown that shows the percentage of new entrants and re-entrants into the labor market has been heading up the last two months, while the percentage of those who have lost their jobs is trending down.

"All of those are positive signs, and we hope those trends will continue in the next several months," she said.

Florida still has a long way to go tackling the dual threats of lower wages and discouraged workers, let alone adding enough new jobs to keep up with its growing population. Over the past year, Florida's labor force has grown by just 63,000 even though its 16-and-up population grew by 215,000.

One indication of how deep the hole is came in a separate report Friday from the Hamilton Project, which examines the number of jobs the economy needs to create to return to prerecession employment levels while absorbing those who enter the labor force each month.

The current "jobs gap" for the country is 11.1 million, according to the report. For its part, Florida would need to create 991,000 jobs to get back to prerecession employment levels. That's second only to California.

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

Comments
Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

TAMPA — Hundreds rallied near the University of South Florida on Friday night to protest President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that the United States will recognize the divided city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.The protest was organize...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/09/17

Duke outage leaves 7,700 without power near Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — Up to 7,700 customers across Pinellas Park, Lealman and Kenneth City lost power in a Thursday night outage, according to Duke Energy.The outage impacted a cloverleaf-shaped area of customers, with pedals extending in the cardinal dire...
Published: 12/08/17
Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will gain an extra lane from Gunn Highway to Hillsborough Avenue starting Saturday.But there’s a catch: Once drivers enter the lane, they won’t be able to leave it — not until a designated exit about six mil...
Published: 12/08/17
St. Petersburg chamber of commerce charts ‘Grow Smarter’ economic development strategy

St. Petersburg chamber of commerce charts ‘Grow Smarter’ economic development strategy

Times Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — What started more than five years ago as an exploratory conversation among a handful of business leaders blossomed Friday into a full-blown community discussion of how to nurture business while working to make sure ...
Published: 12/08/17
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater makes Orlando tourists a top target

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater makes Orlando tourists a top target

In a decision driven by some major data crunching, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater next year will focus its tourism advertising on three target markets: Orlando, New York City and its Tampa Bay home."Research is going to dictate our behaviors and direction...
Published: 12/08/17
Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa’s new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa’s new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

TAMPA — JW Marriott, a luxury hotel brand new to Tampa, will run the new 519-room hotel that the Water Street Tampa project is building next to the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, developers announced Friday.Construction on the 26-story hotel is ...
Published: 12/08/17

Gravel spill shuts down parts of northbound Howard Frankland Bridge

TAMPA — Authorities are cleaning up a load of gravel spilled onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge on Friday afternoon, shutting down at least two lanes of traffic.The incident was reported at 2 p.m. on the stretch of the bridge drivers approac...
Published: 12/08/17
A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

By the time Teralyn Fleming could finally plead her case to get federal disability insurance, she had been waiting two years and three months. The wait was not a peaceful one — a blood clotting disorder pushed her out of the workforce in 2015 ...
Published: 12/08/17
Why has bitcoin’s price shot up so fast?

Why has bitcoin’s price shot up so fast?

SAN FRANCISCO — Bitcoin has been in a bull market like few the world has ever seen.At the beginning of the year, the price of a bitcoin was below $1,000. It hit $5,000 in October, then doubled by late November. And on Thursday, less than two weeks la...
Published: 12/08/17
U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent

U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a robust 228,000 jobs in November, a sign of the job market’s enduring strength in its ninth year of economic recovery. The unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, the Labor Department reported F...
Published: 12/08/17