Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida's unemployment rate unchanged at 8.8 percent

Florida's summertime slump intensified in August, with the unemployment rate stuck at 8.8 percent and thousands more leaving the labor force.

It was the third month in a row that the state's jobless rate has either risen or stayed unchanged after steadily falling to a post-recession low of 8.6 percent in May.

"The numbers are a bit squirrelly month to month, but they tell a consistent story that we're more or less treading water here. And it's the same at the national level," said Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg.

Brown isn't forecasting the slow recovery will slip into a double-dip recession. "But there is this theory of stall speed," he said. "If you start growing less than 2 percent, there is a tendency to weaken even further. You tend to lose altitude."

In one upbeat development: the state added 23,200 jobs over the month and is up 77,800 jobs compared to a year ago, according to figures released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. A loss of more than 5,000 government jobs last month was more than countered by a growth of 28,000 jobs in the private sector.

"The month of August showed that 28,000 more Floridians found employment in the private sector and are able to provide for their families," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. "This increase in new jobs is proving that the decisions we're making here in Florida are pointing our state in the right direction."

How you view the state of the jobs market, however, depends on which set of numbers you focus on.

Gov. Scott focuses on a survey of employers that shows job creation continuing, albeit barely at a pace to keep up with rising population.

But a separate survey of households, the study that's used to calculate unemployment, is less rosy.

It shows the number of unemployed Floridians was unchanged at 818,000, while another 10,000 people dropped out of the labor force between July and August. A recent analysis by the Florida Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research estimated that 91 percent of the drop in the state's unemployment rate so far this year has been due to a shrinking labor pool, not job creation.

Over the past 12 months, Florida's working age population (those 16-and-up not in jail, the military, or nursing homes) has risen by 216,000. Over the same time, the labor pool — those who either have a job or are looking for one — is only up 9,000.

Some who left the workforce are retirees or disabled. The burning question in economic circles is how many of those dropouts are discouraged workers who just temporarily stopped looking for a job so they're no longer counted.

In one sign of prolonged agony for many job seekers, the "average" time that it takes an unemployed Floridian to find a new job has swelled to 49.9 weeks.

"These people are losing their job skills," said Brown, the Raymond James economist. "Plus you have new entrants in the workforce who are not getting a job and not getting the skills they would normally get. That's going to carry with them for a decade or two."

Doug Arms, senior vice president in Tampa for Ajilon Professional Staffing, said Florida's fluctuating labor pool may be a reflection of the workers here as much as job opportunities.

"Florida is an interesting place with the employment appetite of the worker," he said. "They're very fickle with the seasons. People retract voluntarily (from the market) very frequently. … They elect to take the summer off; they elect to go back to school."

In terms of job opportunity, Arms said, the market "is trending in the right direction. We're making really good progress. … We were in a bad place last year."

Many lean employers have pushed productivity as far as they can go and have to grow to keep up with demand, Arms said. The mainstay job creators in health care, education and tourism remain strong, he noted, along with a lot more jobs in financial and professional services.

That meshes with the state's August report, which said the fastest-growing industry year-over-year is professional and business services (up 42,700 jobs), followed by private education and health (up 18,500 jobs). The biggest job losers are government (down 10,300 jobs) and construction (down 8,500 jobs).

Orlando took over as the biggest job creator among metro areas (up 26,400 jobs year-over-year), knocking the Tampa Bay area into second place with 17,000 net new jobs.

Unemployment in the bay area fell from 9.4 percent to 9 percent in August, matching the level it was at two months ago. Among area counties, Pinellas pulled in the lowest jobless rate at 8.6 percent while Hernando persisted as highest at 10.8 percent.

Unlike state figures, local and regional numbers tend to fluctuate more month to month because they are not seasonally adjusted for swings in industries like agriculture and tourism.

Florida continues to lag behind the national unemployment rate, currently 8.1 percent.

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

County-by-county jobless rates

RegionAugustJulyAugust 2011
Citrus10.3 %10.9 %12.5 %
Hernando10.8 11.5 14
Hillsborough8.9 9.2 10.8
Pasco9.9 10.4 12.3
Pinellas8.6 8.9 10.8
Hendry (high)15.3 16.2 18.1
Monroe (low)5 5.3 6.5
Tampa Bay*9 9.4 11.2
Florida8.88.810.5
Nation8.18.39.1

* 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 unchanged at 8.8 percent 09/21/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 21, 2012 10:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 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
  2. Department store chain from Puerto Rico coming to University Mall

    Retail

    TAMPA — Grand's, a department store chain from Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in September.

    Grand's, a department store chain from n Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in Tampa in September. Coloring rendering of revamped University Mall.
[CBRE Group]
  3. Bistro 60 offers inviting buffet in surprising location on Adamo Drive

    Business

    While many families scrambled to find a brunch option that didn't have a line out the door and a long wait so mom could enjoy her special day earlier this week, a new posh eatery boldly entered the local market in time for its first Mother's Day buffet.

    The Bistro 60 at the Clarion Hotel on E Adamo Drive features three bars, including a well-lit one inside.
  4. AP Source: Ford replaces CEO in push to transform business

    Autos

    DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is replacing CEO Mark Fields amid questions about its current performance and future strategy, according to a person familiar with the situation.

    Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Mark Fields speaks during a media preview of the 2018 Lincoln Navigator at the New York International Auto Show in New York in April 2017. Ford is replacing its CEO amid questions about its current performance and future strategy, a person familiar with the situation has said. Fields will be replaced by Jim Hackett, who joined Ford's board in 2013. [Associated Press]
  5. St. Petersburg hopeful Congress will add a NOAA facility, research vessel to downtown waterfront

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city's efforts to energize its downtown port could get a big boost from the federal government.

    There is vacant land next to SRI International, 450 Eighth Ave. SE, that could be the site of a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration center in downtown St. Petersburg.