Saturday, June 23, 2018
Business

Tampa Bay leads as Florida jobless rate falls to 7.5 percent

Tampa Bay is playing a starring role in the steady, broad-based recovery of Florida's long-suffering jobs market.

The bay area's unemployment rate dipped to 6.9 percent in March, the lowest level in nearly five years, as the region continued its reign as the state's top job creator. Over the last 12 months, Tampa Bay has added 35,900 jobs, more than twice as many as any other Florida metro. Its addition of 11,700 jobs in March alone was second only to Miami-Fort Lauderdale.

"Tampa gets a gold star thus far in 2013 in terms of how the labor market has been faring," said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith.

The statewide numbers released Friday were likewise encouraging: Florida's jobless rate tumbled to a four-and-a-half-year low of 7.5 percent, down from 7.7 percent in February, as the state added 32,700 jobs over the month. Florida is now up 141,300 jobs compared to March 2012, with government and manufacturing the only areas still shedding thousands of jobs over the year.

Nearly every other industry is on the upswing, led by 42,300 more jobs in trade, transportation and utilities, a broad category that includes everything from gas stations to retail to auto sales.

Gov. Rick Scott, speaking at a Friday morning event in Naples honoring manufacturer Pelican Wire, said the latest figures prove his jobs strategy is working.

"In Florida, our economy is turning around because we focus every day on creating new jobs for our families," he said, noting the state has added 320,000 private sector jobs since he took office a little over two years ago.

In one troubling trend line, Florida's labor force contracted again. Over the past month, the pool of Floridians either in a job or looking for work fell by 18,000 even though the state's 16-and-up civilian population grew by 16,000.

The nagging fear is that many of those who dropped out of the labor force are discouraged workers who have just temporarily stopped looking. Once they start job hunting again, that could drive unemployment back up.

Still, although a shrinking labor pool likely exaggerates the drop in unemployment, it doesn't mean jobs aren't finally coming back, said Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg.

"We're on our way," he said.

For several years, Florida trailed the rest of the country's recovery from the Great Recession. In recent months, the state's unemployment rate has dipped below the national rate, which was at 7.6 percent in March. Florida created more jobs last month than any other state.

The Tampa Bay scene is brighter in part because its economy is more diverse than other Florida metros. It has benefitted from an upward tick in home prices, a rise in exports, more professional and business service jobs and a rejuvenated tourism industry.

As a result, the bay area's unemployment rate has plummeted to 6.9 percent, down from 7.5 percent a month ago and down more than a full percentage point in just two months.

Hillsborough County boasts the lowest rate in the region (6.6 percent). Hernando County persists as the hardest-hit local geography, but its new rate of 8.4 percent is down substantially from a year ago when residents were combatting a jobless rate of 11.6 percent.

Statewide, Monroe retains its bragging right as best-performing county with a rate of 3.8 percent, near the levels Florida enjoyed during its 2006 boom. With a jobless rate of 10 percent, Hendry is the sole Florida county still caught in double-digit unemployment.

Unlike state figures, metro and county figures are not seasonally adjusted and tend to fluctuate more month to month.

The jobless rate still needs to fall considerably more, at least below 6 percent, to signify a healthy economy. And the path ahead may be difficult. Some economists are still bracing for the effects of federal budget cuts and higher payroll taxes to hit the economy in coming months.

In the last couple years, Florida has gone through a discouraging pattern: a strong start to the year followed by a slowdown in which consumers pull back on spending and small businesses hire fewer workers than expected.

"We're staring at the annual spring slump," cautioned Brown, the Raymond James economist.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Making the case for more drones

Making the case for more drones

BLACKSBURG, Va. - They considered how well everyone slept the night before. They considered the chances a military jet might scream by on a training mission. They considered the farmer in the field.Then they considered some more.After making it throu...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

The biggest hospitals in Houston had a problem.To earn a prized institutional certification, they needed more nurses with bachelor of science degrees in nursing.But local colleges were more focused on turning out nurses with two-year degrees who, to ...
Published: 06/22/18
Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

TAMPA — The days ahead were supposed to be bright.For weeks, the future of health care tech company CareSync had been thrown into question as founder and CEO and founder Travis Bond unexpectedly departed, kicking off multiple rounds of layoffs. But t...
Published: 06/22/18
Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Here’s an intriguing set of facts: Coal produces the same percentage of the world’s electricity as 20 years ago. Oil and gas remain about level, too.Same for nonfossil fuel sources. In other words, the massive push towards renewables over the past co...
Published: 06/22/18
Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

A cancer lurks within Florida’s otherwise rosy job numbers, one that’s been called a quiet catastrophe and an intractable time bomb.Too many men between the ages of 25 and 54 have stopped working.Economists call those the prime-age years. Incomes gen...
Published: 06/22/18
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Published: 06/22/18
For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

ST. PETERSBURG — For sale: a 104-year-old elementary school with restaurant and wine shop. It even has a title company where you can close the deal.Less than a year after completing a major renovation of the historic North Ward school, developer Jona...
Published: 06/22/18
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the companies behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over control of an old city building that sits between the hit eateries. Both want to redevelop the city&...
Published: 06/21/18
Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Associated PressFlorida’s busiest airport is becoming the first in the nation to require a face scan of passengers on all arriving and departing international flights, including U.S. citizens, according to officials there. The expected announcement T...
Published: 06/21/18