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 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. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street


    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24


    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters


    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights


    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.


    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]