Make us your home page
Instagram

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 jharrington@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8242.

County-by-county jobless rates

RegionOctoberSeptemberOctober 2011
Citrus9.2 %9.9 %11.6 %
Hernando9.8 10.4 13.3
Hillsborough8 8.6 10.1
Pasco9.1 9.7 11.7
Pinellas7.9 8.4 10.2
Hendry (high)12.6 14.2 15.6
Monroe (low)4.7 5 6.3
Tampa Bay*8.2 8.8 10.5
Florida8.58.710.2
Nation7.97.88.9

* 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 rate falls to 8.5 percent 11/16/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 11:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]