Monday, January 15, 2018
Politics

Florida's unemployment rate falls to 4.9 percent, but job gains are mild

February was a Jekyll-and-Hyde month for Florida's economy.

The good Dr. Jekyll: The unemployment rate tumbled two notches to an eight-year low of 4.9 percent. The last time Florida's unemployment rate was under 5 percent, George W. Bush was still in the White House, The Bucket List was coming out in theaters and Tim Tebow was enjoying his Heisman Trophy win.

And Mr. Hyde: After months of strong growth, the state added a meager 5,900 jobs — just a fraction of its population growth in February — with many key industries retracting. The biggest drop, of 4,900 jobs, came in professional and business services, which had been a cornerstone of gradually improving wages.

Another higher-paying industry, construction, slumped by 1,800 jobs over the month while leisure and hospitality lost 400 jobs. It was a rare slippage from the industry's rebound; construction has still added 25,800 jobs since February, 2015, second only to California.

Florida's biggest monthly growth came in financial activities (up 3,700 jobs); trade, transportation and utilities (up 3,400 jobs) and education and health services (up 3,000 jobs).

It's not unusual to see a disconnect between the unemployment rate and job creation numbers.

Government number crunchers use two different surveys to come up with the monthly reports: the unemployment rate comes from a household survey while industry breakdown of jobs added and lost comes from employers.

Of the two, economists stress job numbers over unemployment rates. In that category, Florida's monthly job gain is slim, indeed, compared to other large states like California and New York, which added nearly 40,000 jobs and 25,000 jobs, respectively.

But University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith is not overly concerned.

"If this becomes the new standard, then, yes, it's going to be a problem," he said. But "the previous four months (of job growth) had been really strong. I think we still have momentum in the labor market."

After all, Florida is up by 243,200 jobs from a year ago, when its jobless rate stood at 5.6 percent, and all industries except for information are growing year-over-year.

The overarching concerns of the prolonged recovery have not vanished: Wages are improving somewhat but still relatively depressed as there are more people vying for jobs than the headline numbers might suggest.

"The unemployment rate isn't really the clearest indicator of the health of the labor market," Snaith said. "There's still a lot of underemployment and people out of the labor force who would historically be in it."

Gov. Rick Scott, in releasing the figures, focused on the long-term picture and took the ebb and flow of government jobs out of his calculations.

Aggressive tax-cutting, Scott said, "has resulted in our private sector adding more than one million jobs in only five years. While these are incredible accomplishments for our state, we will continue to do all we can to support economic growth so Florida can be first in the nation for jobs."

In Tampa Bay, it was a stellar jobs month. The bay area added 9,700 jobs in February alone and is up nearly 40,000 jobs over the year, with professional and business services leading the way.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate fell significantly to 4.5 percent, down from 4.9 percent a month ago and 5.4 percent a year ago.

Contact Jeff Harrington at [email protected] Follow @JeffMHarrington.

Comments
‘What do we want? Apology!’ Hundreds of Haiti supporters protest near Mar-a-Lago

‘What do we want? Apology!’ Hundreds of Haiti supporters protest near Mar-a-Lago

Sun Sentinel (TNS)PALM BEACH — About 500 Haitian-Americans and their supporters used the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to protest derogatory comments President Donald Trump reportedly made about immigrants from majority-black countries."What do we w...
Updated: 6 hours ago

U.S. forced to renew DACA permits as furor over Trump’s immigration slur persists

Los Angeles Times (TNS)WASHINGTON — The Trump administration, under court order, said it would resume taking applications to renew temporary protections from deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegall...
Published: 01/14/18
GOP senator: Reports of Trump’s ‘s---hole’ comments a ‘gross misrepresentation’

GOP senator: Reports of Trump’s ‘s---hole’ comments a ‘gross misrepresentation’

A Republican senator is insisting that President Donald Trump did not use a vulgar term in referring to African countries during a closed-door meeting on immigration that he and five other senators attended last week.Georgia Sen. David Perdue called ...
Published: 01/14/18
Ethics panel advised to deny legal fees in unfounded Ken Hagan complaint

Ethics panel advised to deny legal fees in unfounded Ken Hagan complaint

A Florida Ethics Commission staff attorney has drafted an order denying Hillsborough County’s request for reimbursement for attorney fees from one of four citizens who filed unsustained ethics complaints against Commissioner Ken Hagan.The commission ...
Published: 01/12/18
Haitians in Tampa Bay area react to Trump’s slur:

Haitians in Tampa Bay area react to Trump’s slur: "It’s very racist"

Fadia Richardson had just finished dinner Thursday when she sat down to watch the news and saw a report she didn’t want to believe.In an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers to discuss immigration policy earlier in the day, President Donald Trump repor...
Published: 01/12/18
Sen. Durbin says Trump said ‘hate-filled things’

Sen. Durbin says Trump said ‘hate-filled things’

WASHINGTON — A senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly." Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois D...
Published: 01/12/18
Trump denies he used vulgarity to describe African countries

Trump denies he used vulgarity to describe African countries

WASHINGTON — In bluntly vulgar language, President Donald Trump questioned Thursday why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "sh--hole countries" in Africa rather than places like Norway, as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, ...
Published: 01/12/18
Africa startled by Trump’s ‘extremely offensive’ comments on immigrants

Africa startled by Trump’s ‘extremely offensive’ comments on immigrants

JOHANNESBURG — Africans woke up on Friday to find President Donald Trump had finally taken an interest in their continent. It wasn’t what people had hoped for.Using vulgar language, Trump on Thursday questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigran...
Published: 01/12/18
Hillsborough Republicans off to a rocky start in 2018

Hillsborough Republicans off to a rocky start in 2018

The Hillsborough County Republican Party is having a shaky start to election year 2018. Chairman Deborah Tamargo has been ousted over a seemingly petty squabble that reflects the long-standing division between East Hillsborough conservatives and esta...
Published: 01/12/18
Clearwater City Council Candidate Tom Keller says he’s a voice for the ordinary resident

Clearwater City Council Candidate Tom Keller says he’s a voice for the ordinary resident

Editor’s note: Ahead of the March 13 election, the Tampa Bay Times is publishing profiles on Clearwater City Council candidates for Seat 4 today. Profiles on candidates for Seat 5 will appear next week.CLEARWATER — Tom Keller is the first one to admi...
Published: 01/12/18