Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida's unemployment rate falls to 9.9 percent

Florida's unemployment rate dropped to 9.9 percent in December, the first time the rate has fallen below 10 percent in more than two and a half years.

The last time the state's unemployment rate was in the single digits, entertainer Michael Jackson was alive, the last three Harry Potter movies had yet to hit the theaters and an ex-health care executive named Rick Scott had yet to become a politician.

Scott, now Florida's governor, trumpeted news Friday morning of the drop as evidence a recovery is well under way.

"A good way to judge the direction of Florida's economy is to look at the percentage of people who were unemployed one year ago and now have jobs," Scott said in prepared remarks. "Today that number is 2.1 percentage points lower than it was in 2010, meaning more of Florida's families are finding jobs."

Some economists cautioned against politicians taking too much credit for a natural economic cycle of recovery.

"Economies don't stay down forever," said Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial. "Recessions are typically followed by recovery, and this was obviously a major recession, so the recovery is a lot more gradual than usual."

The state's workforce grew by 7,300 jobs in December, raising the total job count by 113,900 for the year. Tampa Bay led the way among all regions, gaining a net 28,500 jobs during 2011, up 2.5 percent. The bay area's jobless rate fell to 10 percent, down from 10.3 percent in November.

The jobs market is still dire, especially given that tens of thousands of discouraged workers have temporarily stopped looking for a job and are no longer counted among the jobless.

Add in discouraged workers and part-timers unable to find full-time work, and the unemployment rate would be 17.8 percent.

Still, there's reason for optimism.

"Some of the fundamental ingredients for a sustained recovery are now in place," said Mekael Teshome, an economist with PNC Financial Services Group who tracks the Florida market. "You have stronger confidence; you have stronger corporate profits; and the housing market depression is unwinding."

Teshome was particularly keen on Florida, which he said "could surprise on the upside" this year as job gains broaden beyond tourism and health care.

Such words of optimism were more elusive back in April of 2009, when unemployment was at 9.7 percent, and rising.

Headlines at the time told the story: Profits plummeting 90 percent at St. Petersburg's Raymond James Financial; Walt Disney Co. cutting 1,400 jobs in Florida; and Lazydays' massive RV park in Seffner struggling to meet its debt obligations.

These days, a revived and bullish Raymond James just announced the biggest acquisition in its history while Disney made a company record $5.8 billion in profit in fiscal 2011 with guest spending at its theme parks up 9 percent.

And Lazydays?

The company has had no major debt since a restructuring two years ago; employment has held steady at about 500 since the middle of last year, and executives were feeling confident enough financially to buy a Tucson dealership last year.

Randy Lay, Lazydays' chief financial officer, described 2011 as a "good year" and predicts 2012 will be a bit better. At the least, Friday's jobs report might bolster his confidence that Florida's recovery is widening.

More jobs were added over the past year in trade, transportation and utilities (up 37,200 jobs) than any other industry.

Not surprisingly, leisure and hospitality and health care were close behind.

But the camp of net job creators now also includes professional and business services, financial activities, manufacturing, and other services.

The biggest losses by far came in government, down nearly 8,000 jobs for the year.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8242.

County-by-county unemployment rates

RegionDec. 2011Nov. 2011Dec. 2010
Citrus10.9 %11.1 %12.9 %
Hernando12.7 %13.1 %14.7 %
Hillsborough9.5 %9.8 %11.7 %
Pasco11.2 %11.4 %13.2 %
Pinellas9.8 %10 %11.9 %
Flagler (highest)13.9 %14.1 %15.7 %
Monroe (lowest)6.2 %6.4 %7.5 %
Tampa Bay*10 %10.3 %12.2 %
Florida9.9 %10 %12 %
Nation8.5 %8.7 %9.4 %

*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

Two years of double-digit unemployment

Here's how Florida's labor market has changed since the last time unemployment was in single digits: April 2009. In the past year, trade, transportation and utilities led job sector gains.

THENNOW
Unemployment rate9.7 percent9.9 percent
Size of labor pool9.15 million9.23 million
Number employed8.26 million8.32 million
Number unemployed888,000913,000
Construction jobs407,200331,400
Government jobs1.093 million1.097 million

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

Florida's unemployment rate falls to 9.9 percent 01/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 10:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Foundation Partners buys Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation

    Business

    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  4. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  5. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion

    National

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]