Florida jobless rate drops to 3.4 percent, adds 17,800 jobs

Unemployment continues to fall across the state and the Tampa Bay region holds its own.
Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in October, according to state figures. Pictured is a job fair in April. [Cherie Diez | Times, 2018]
Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in October, according to state figures. Pictured is a job fair in April. [Cherie Diez | Times, 2018]
Published November 16 2018
Updated November 16 2018

The Sunshine State's economic expansion continued its jogging pace in October.

Florida's unemployment rate was 3.4 percent for the month, according to state figures released Friday. That’s down from 3.5 percent in September and the lowest it has been since January 2007. The state added 17,800 jobs over the month, just below the average 19,000 jobs added per month so far in 2018.

And economists expect the pace to continue into the near future.

"I don’t see any reason why that trend won’t continue at least through the middle of 2019," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

Education and health services have gained the most jobs over the year (51,300) after a months-long run, overtaking the usual competitors for the No. 1 spot, construction and leisure and hospitality. Leisure and hospitality have gained the second-highest number of jobs over the year (51,100) followed by construction (43,400).

Government was the only sector to lose jobs over the year through October (-8,900).

“Over the last eight years, we have recovered from a recession and rebuilt a strong and resilient economy that attracts businesses from all industries to create great jobs for Floridians," Gov. Rick Scott said in a release.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate held at 2.9 percent from September. Hillsborough County stayed at 2.9 percent, Hernando County at 3.8 percent, Pinellas County at 2.7 percent and Pasco County at 3.2 percent.

The bay area has added the third-highest number of jobs over the year of any metro area (29,100 jobs), following Orlando at No. 1 (55,400) and tying Miami at No. 2 (29,100).

Nationally, unemployment was 3.7 percent in October.

Because Florida's unemployment rate continues to drop, one question some economists are beginning to ask is if it is too low.

"There are a couple of concerns that very low unemployment rates could cause problems," PNC's Faucher said.

One is that businesses might be reluctant to expand because of a labor shortage. When there are so few people unemployed, finding skilled workers can be challenging, and that, Faucher said, may deter some businesses from growing.

Another issue is that businesses may face slightly lower profits because of rising wages. Wages have largely stagnated despite the economic recovery, but recently there has been an uptick in pay as businesses get more competitive for the smaller pool of available workers. That can eat into a company's bottom line over time.

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.