Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa Bay leads as Florida jobless rate falls to 7.5 percent

Ivan Mateo, 50, of Tampa, who works 20 hours or less a week in customer service, looks for a job Monday on West Cypress Street in Tampa. He is anxious to find more work. The bay area’s unemployment rate dipped to 6.9 percent in March, the lowest level in nearly five years, but there is a nagging fear that the low level is because discouraged workers dropped out of the labor force. As the job market picks up they could start looking again, pushing up the jobless rate.

AUSTIN ANTHONY | Times

Ivan Mateo, 50, of Tampa, who works 20 hours or less a week in customer service, looks for a job Monday on West Cypress Street in Tampa. He is anxious to find more work. The bay area’s unemployment rate dipped to 6.9 percent in March, the lowest level in nearly five years, but there is a nagging fear that the low level is because discouraged workers dropped out of the labor force. As the job market picks up they could start looking again, pushing up the jobless rate.

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 jharrington@tampabay.com.

County-by-county jobless rates

RegionMarch 2013February 2013March 2012
Citrus7.8 %8.6 %10 %
Hernando8.4 9.2 11.6
Hillsborough6.67.28.6
Pasco7.58.310.4
Pinellas6.77.38.9
Hendry (high)1010.911.9
Monroe (low)3.84.25.1
Tampa Bay*6.97.59.1
Florida 7.57.88.9
Nation7.67.78.2
RegionMarch 2013February 2013March 2012
Citrus7.8 %8.6 %10 %
Hernando8.4 9.2 11.6
Hillsborough6.67.28.6
Pasco7.58.310.4
Pinellas6.77.38.9
Hendry (high)1010.911.9
Monroe (low)3.84.25.1
Tampa Bay*6.97.59.1
Florida 7.57.88.9
Nation7.67.78.2

*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

Tampa Bay leads as Florida jobless rate falls to 7.5 percent 04/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, April 19, 2013 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary

    Banking

    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]

  2. Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Express is dead.

    But it's replacement — Tampa Bay Next — will likely include many of the same projects, including express toll lanes on the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. DOT officials say there are still re-evaluating the most controversial aspect of the old TBX plan: spend $6 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area highways - Interstates 4,75 and 275 - that are currently free of tolls. But TBN will keep the plan to add express toll lanes to the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  3. Trigaux: Tampa Bay lands on Forbes 2017 ranking of best places for young professionals

    Working Life

    Consider this one more notch in the belt of Tampa Bay starting to win serious attention from millennials as place to live and build a career.

    Mike Griffin is a senior managing director in Tampa for Savills Studley Occupier Services, which provides integrated real estate services. He is also chairman for 2017 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the first of the next generation of leadership emerging in this metro market. [Courtesy of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce]
  4. Leaders of Tampa Bay's top workplaces share insights, suggestions

    Business

    TAMPA — Nearly 300 people gathered at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday morning to hear tips and insights from leaders of the highest-ranked workplaces in Tampa Bay.

    Bays Florida associates (From left) Robert Patterson, Amanda Boser, and Kellly Banchak talk during the reception before the start of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces Live! program at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times