Saturday, May 26, 2018
Business

Florida creates 33,000 jobs in February, biggest monthly jump in over three years

Florida created an impressive 33,400 jobs in February, the biggest one-month jump in new jobs in more than three years.

The last time Florida experienced a similar monthly growth spurt was back in May 2010, when the federal stimulus program created 45,200 jobs statewide in an effort to jump-start the economy. Take away that lone, stimulus-inspired month and Florida would have to go all the way back to the boom-time summer of 2005 for such a jobs surge.

The state's unemployment rate remained unchanged from an upwardly revised 6.2 percent in January. That was largely seen as favorable, however, as it indicated many discouraged jobless who had given up were again looking for work.

Since February of last year, the unemployment rate has fallen 1.7 percentage points and the state has created 211,500 jobs, according to data released by the state Friday morning.

About 588,000 Floridians remain jobless out of a workforce of 9.52 million.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate was 6.5 percent, unchanged from January. The national rate for February was 6.7 percent.

The state's total labor pool swelled by 58,000 — three times as much as its 16-and-up population grew — which helps explain why the unemployment rate didn't improve despite the jump in jobs. Experts have long warned that as the economy picks up, more people who had given up looking for work will re-enter the jobs market. That's generally a good sign for the economy, even though it creates a drag on the unemployment rate.

Sean Snaith, an economist and director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness, said Friday's report may be a sneak preview of how Florida's labor market will continue to improve this year.

"It's shaping up to be a feel-good movie," Snaith said. "The lead actor is solid payroll job growth across sectors and its sidekick will be an unemployment rate increasingly difficult to bring down as labor force growth is boosted by increased hiring by businesses."

Pasco-Hernando Workforce Board program manager David Hamilton had a more pessimistic take.

He sees Hernando in particular "in stagnation," with the unemployment rate rising from 7.6 percent to 8.6 percent since December.

Any improvement in curbing unemployment toward the latter part of 2013 "hasn't continued into the first quarter, and that's disappointing," Hamilton said.

Gov. Rick Scott released the report during a brief visit to Port Tampa Bay.

"February . . . was the single biggest month for private-sector job creation since I've become governor. … Thirty-three thousand jobs in one month. That's a great month," Scott said to applause from local politicians, port employees and workers at Titan Metal Service, a metal fabricator at the port that has doubled its operation since the recession.

Both Scott and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn praised Tampa Bay for leading all metros in job growth, although the area has already given up those bragging rights. It now trails both Orlando and Miami in year-over-year job growth.

Several industries contributed to job creation in February. Business and professional services was up 7,100 over the month, and construction added 7,000 new jobs. Also contributing: trade, transportation, and utilities (up 6,000), education and health services (up 5,300), leisure and hospitality (up 3,900), and financial services (up 3,300). Even government added 1,300 jobs from January to February. Manufacturing was unchanged.

Over the past year, the recession-hardened construction industry has been particularly resurgent, adding 39,200 new jobs, an 11 percent surge. That's the biggest jump both by percentage and jobs added for any state in the country, according to trade group Associated General Contractors of America.

Times staff writer Logan Neill contributed to this report. Reach Jeff Harrington at (727) 893-8242 or [email protected]

Coming Sunday in Business: A closer look at Florida's and Tampa Bay's job markets.

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