Make us your home page

Florida unemployments falls to 9.4 percent

Tampa Bay has emerged as an MVP in Florida's ongoing battle to whittle down its still bloated unemployment rate.

• The bay area added 20,800 net new jobs over the past 12 months, tops among all metro areas. From January to February alone, the region is up 9,300 jobs.

• In February, the bay area's unemployment rate fell a dramatic six-tenths of a percentage point, from 10 percent to 9.4 percent.

• Unlike the state, Tampa Bay's labor pool is growing compared to both a month ago and a year ago. That means its improved jobs picture is not because more jobless have temporarily suspended their search and are no longer being counted.

Tally it up and Tampa Bay sticks out as key to the state's jobless rate tumbling from 9.6 percent to 9.4 percent in February, dipping to its lowest point in three years. It's a big reason Gov. Rick Scott on Friday could announce the state added 10,100 jobs in February — partially offsetting a dismal January when it lost 38,600 jobs.

Surprised that Tampa Bay's economic engine is churning? Local executive recruiter Phil Petrillo isn't.

"We've been here since 1980, and this first quarter was our best first quarter ever in the history of the business," said Petrillo, whose company, Management Recruiters of St. Petersburg, tries to match managers with jobs in the $80,000 to $200,000 pay range.

Demand for IT positions is "through the ceiling," he says. Ditto with heavy demand for mechanical, chemical and electrical engineers.

For many mid-level managers, "it's definitely a candidate-driven market," he said. "People are more willing to make a move now where they were really hesitant to jump the last couple of years. And companies are coming up with the sizable increases in salary to make sure that happens."

Tampa Bay's jobs recovery still faces severe headwinds, including a housing market decimated by foreclosures.

Moreover, a local unemployment rate above 9 percent is still abysmal by most standards, and economists predict the return of a more palatable jobless rate under 6 percent may still be years away.

Still, Tampa Bay's job creation momentum is hard to overlook.

New jobs are popping up not just in early-recovery niches like health care, tourism and retail, but also in professional business services and real estate. Call center hiring in particular is back in vogue, with companies such as lawn care specialist TruGreen and health insurer Humana adding hundreds of local jobs. Time Warner is adding 500 information technology and human resources jobs at a shared resource center in Hillsborough County, promising an average salary of more than $57,000.

Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, said the bay area's ace in the hole is its diversity.

Jobs here aren't tethered only to tourism, for example, or a handful of big companies. Rather, small business drives the bay area, and small business is on the comeback trail thanks to a long-awaited easing of credit.

"In the heat of the crisis in the fall of 2009, banks were pulling lines of credit for small business left and right," Brown said. "It's taken a while, but that's starting to improve. The loans are getting a little easier to get."

So far, the economic recovery is stronger in the region's urban counties, with both Hillsborough and Pinellas County falling last month to 9 percent unemployment. Outlying counties aren't as fortunate, as they're still battling double-digit joblessness. Hardest hit is Hernando with a 12.1 percent unemployment rate, second-highest among all Florida counties.

It's not unusual, Brown said, for outlying counties to lag in recovery. The same pattern is playing out elsewhere in the country.

Tampa Bay's growing labor pool also contrasts with much of the state. The pool, which measures the number of people who have a job or are looking, is up by 6,300 workers in February to over 1.3 million.

In contrast, the state's labor pool continues to shrink, shriveling by another 4,000 workers in February even though the state's population grew by 17,000. Economists fear a dwindling labor pool indicates there are thousands more jobless Floridians who have temporarily given up their job search and, when they return, unemployment will rise again.

A shrinking labor pool helps explain why Florida has narrowed the gap with the national unemployment rate (flat at 8.3 percent the last two months) even though state's growth rate lags the country's growth rate.

In the last 12 months, Florida has added 72,300 jobs for a growth rate of about 1 percent, according to a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity analysis released Friday. The United States has added more than 2 million jobs during that span, notching a growth rate of 1.5 percent.

In other words, U.S. jobs are growing at a rate 50 percent higher than Florida, and February continued the trend.

Florida still has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the country, better than Nevada (12.3 percent), Rhode Island (11 percent) and California (10.9 percent) and North Carolina (9.9 percent).

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

County-by-county unemployment rates

Region Feb. 2012 Jan. 2012 Feb. 2011

Citrus 10.6 % 11.3 % 12.2 %

Hernando 12.1 12.7 13.7

Hillsborough 9 9.5 10.8

Pasco 10.7 11.3 12.4

Pinellas 9 9.6 11

Flagler (highest) 12.7 13.6 14.5

Monroe (lowest) 5.4 5.8 6.6

Tampa Bay* 9.4 10 11.2

Florida 9.4 9.6 10.8

Nation 8.3 8.3 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: Department of Economic Opportunity


Increase in Tampa Bay area jobs over the past year

9.4 percent

Bay area's February unemployment rate, down from 10 percent for January

9 percent

February uemployment rate in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties

County-by-county unemployment rates

RegionFeb. 2012Jan. 2012Feb. 2011
Citrus10.6 %11.3 %12.2 %
Hernando12.1 12.7 13.7
Hillsborough9 9.5 10.8
Pasco10.7 11.3 12.4
Pinellas9 9.6 11
Flagler (highest)12.7 13.6 14.5
Monroe (lowest)5.4 5.8 6.6
Tampa Bay*9.4 1011.2
Florida9.4 9.6 10.8

*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: Department of Economic Opportunity

Florida unemployments falls to 9.4 percent 03/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 30, 2012 11:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report


    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  2. Trigaux: Campaign aims to leverage tourism ads to recruit millennials, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay's unleashing one of its best weapons — a cadre of successful entrepreneurs and young business leaders — in a marketing campaign already under way but officially …

    Erin Meagher, founder of Tampa coconut oil products company Beneficial Blends, is part of a group of business savvy millennial entrepreneurs and managers who are helping to pitch the work-live-play merits of the Tampa Bay market in a new marketing campaign called Make It Tampa Bay. The campaign is backed by Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and aimed at recruiting more millennial talent to relocate and stay in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Visit Tampa Bay]
  3. Florida gas prices drop 25 cents on average over past month


    Gas prices are on a downward tear post-hurricane. Tampa Bay fell to $2.34 per gallon on Sunday, down 10 cents over the week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Across the state, gas fell 7 cents over the same period to average $2.47 per gallon.

    Gas prices across the state fell 25 cents over 31 days. | [Times file photo]
  4. Entrepreneur expands interests with Twisted Crafts


    SOUTH TAMPA — Playgrounds of Tampa owner Mike Addabbo is expanding into the do-it-yourself industry with his new endeavor: Twisted Crafts.

     Jennifer and Michael Addabbo pose in their latest entrepreneurial enterprise: Twisted Crafts. Photo courtesy of Twisted Craft.
  5. Amazing Lash franchise expands to South Tampa


    SOUTH TAMPA — Jeff Tolrud opened the doors to his third Amazing Lash Studio franchise earlier this month, this time in South Tampa.

    When customers walk in, the studios have the same look and feel throughout the country, operator Jeff Tolrud said of Amazing Lash Studio. Tolrud opened his third in Hillsborough County earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Amazing Lash.