Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida's unemployment rate drops, but so does the labor pool

Gov. Rick Scott pointed to the Tampa Bay area’s job growth and said that while the state’s news is good, “we’re not finished.’’

Associated Press

Gov. Rick Scott pointed to the Tampa Bay area’s job growth and said that while the state’s news is good, “we’re not finished.’’

Gauging the strength of Florida's economic recovery can be a rather selective exercise.

It all depends on which numbers you want to look at.

Gov. Rick Scott likes to tout the baseline number for unemployment, such as the latest one which he released Friday. It shows Florida far outpacing much of the country with its jobless rate plummeting to 6.4 percent in November, down from 6.7 percent in October and down a whopping 1.6 percentage points over the year. Nationwide, only North Carolina and New Jersey had a greater percentage point drop in the their jobless rate over the year.

Long a laggard in recovery, Florida can now boast a much lower jobless rate than the national rate of 7 percent.

A few other numbers, however, indicate the state's recovery has been far more restrained. Florida added only 6,100 jobs last month, a big slowdown from October when it led the country with 44,000 newly created jobs.

And then consider two other numbers:

• 18,000 — That's the growth this past month in Florida's working-age population of 16-and-up residents who are not in jails or hospitals.

• 2,000 — That's how much the civilian labor force — those with a job or looking for one — shrank over the same time.

The disconnect continues a troubling trend. Over the past year, the state's working age population grew by 214,000 while the labor force shrank by 9,000.

Economists say the combination of a dwindling labor force and growing population indicates there are more people who have at least temporarily given up looking for work and are no longer counted in unemployment statistics.

Some of the labor force shrinkage is made up of aging Baby Boomers who are retiring, but many are likely discouraged workers, said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness. When they re-enter the labor pool at some point, that drives up competition and potentially the jobless rate.

"All is not as rosy as that headline unemployment number," Snaith said. "The smaller labor force is a big part of why that number has come down so quickly."

He noted that a broader measure of Florida unemployment — one that includes discouraged workers and part-timers who want full-time work but can't find it — only fell from 15.1 percent to 14.6 percent between the second quarter and third quarter of 2013.

Florida is not alone in seeing labor force participation drop. Nationally, an estimated 5.7 million people have been sidelined by the recession, classified as "missing workers" that are neither in a job nor actively seeking one, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

However, the situation may be more acute here given how Florida's population continues to surge.

Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, called it "kind of odd" that more jobs haven't been created while the state's population has risen 1.4 percent over the past year.

"You're looking at a trend where the unemployment rate here is falling faster than the national average, but I think it's overstated because we're still seeing people drop out," he said.

That doesn't mean that the state's economy isn't improving, Brown said. It's still in much better shape than during the Great Recession, as tens of thousands of jobs have been added over a broader swath of industries. Trade, transportation and utilities — a broad category that includes most retail jobs — remained the top industry in gaining 56,800 jobs over the year. Professional and business services was second, up 38,700 jobs. Government is the only sector with fewer jobs than a year ago.

Moreover, Tampa Bay remains one of the brightest economic spots. The region continued to lead all Florida metros in adding 39,300 jobs year over year, including a solid 10,900 more jobs over last month alone.

The bay area's unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent. Pinellas and Hillsborough counties boasted the lowest jobless rates in the region at 6 percent while Hernando remained at the other end of the spectrum at 7.7 percent.

Metro and county estimates are not seasonally adjusted like state figures, so they tend to fluctuate more month to month.

The governor singled out Tampa Bay's performance, even as he beamed over the latest statewide retraction in the jobless rate.

"We haven't experienced an unemployment rate this low in over five years," said Scott, who was in Winter Park on Friday morning to release the report. "Today's news is great, but we're not finished."

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

Unemployment rate comparisons

County Nov. 2013 Oct. 2013 Nov. 2012
Citrus 7.1 percent 7.2 percent 8.9 percent
Hernando 7.7 percent 7.9 percent 9.6 percent
Hillsborough 6 percent 6.2 percent 7.7 percent
Pasco 7 percent 7.3 percent 9 percent
Pinellas 6 percent 6.2 percent 7.9 percent
Hendry (highest) 11.3 percent 12.2 percent 12.9 percent
Monroe (lowest) 3.7 percent 3.9 percent 4.7 percent
Tampa Bay area* 6.2 percent 6.4 percent 8.1 percent
Florida 6.4 percent 6.7 percent 8 percent
Nation 7 percent 7.3 percent 7.8 percent

* 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

Florida's unemployment rate drops, but so does the labor pool 12/20/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 20, 2013 11:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

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

    Roads

    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

    Retail

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

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

    Retail

    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

    Corporate

    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

    Business

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

    Yet.

    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]