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Florida continues strong run of job growth

The state added 22,500 jobs in August.
Job applicants seek information about temporary positions available with the 2020 Census, during a job fair in Miami on Wednesday designed for people fifty years or older.
Job applicants seek information about temporary positions available with the 2020 Census, during a job fair in Miami on Wednesday designed for people fifty years or older. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published Sep. 20, 2019
Updated Sep. 20, 2019

Florida remains on a long winning streak when it comes to creating jobs.

An additional 22,500 people were employed in August compared to July, according to state figures released Friday. Florida has added jobs every month dating back to 2011, except for a blip in September 2017 when Hurricane Irma ripped through the state upending the economy for a couple of weeks.

The unemployment rate remained the same at 3.3 percent. That’s close to the state’s all-time low of 3.1 percent set in March 2006. Back then, the unemployment rate was held down by an overheated real estate market that later imploded, helping bring on the Great Recession.

Today’s job growth is spread more evenly. Every major metro area added jobs in August — with Miami, Orlando and Tampa Bay leading the way — as did nearly all of the state’s 10 largest job sectors. Professional and business services added the most with 7,200, followed by leisure and hospitality (4,700) and construction (4,100).

The breadth of the economic expansion matters. Typically, adding jobs across many industries and locations means job growth will be more durable. Even if one industry or region takes a hit, the others will help absorb the blow.

Think of a strong labor market as the backbone of a solid economy.

“This jobs report reaffirms that the state’s labor market is in good shape, particularly in Central Florida,” said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith.

RELATED STORY: How Florida’s jobs picture has changed since before the Great Recession.

Another bright spot: More people were working or looking for work. The labor pool grew by 34,000 people in August, outpacing the growth in the working-age population.

In other words, more people are getting pulled off the sidelines and into the job market. Some were discouraged workers who had stopped looking for jobs, so they were no longer counted in the employment figures. Others migrated from other states or had spent years as a stay-at-home parent.

The result is more people with more money in their pockets, which helps drive an economy that relies heavily on consumer spending.

A caveat is that the growth in the labor force has been uneven this year, and is nowhere near the pace set a few years ago.

“This is a positive sign,” said Karl Kuykendall, principal economist at IHS Markit. “(But) we’ll have to monitor where the numbers come in over the next couple months to get a real sense of where things are going.”

Wages and salaries in Florida have started to rise more rapidly. In general, wages climb in tight labor markets. Businesses use higher pay to retain workers and attract new ones. But this time around wages remain sluggish compared to the growth rates during previous eras of low unemployment. They are going up, they just aren’t rising as fast as expected.

The growing labor pool may help explain why. The extra workers are filling open jobs, which eases the pressure on businesses to increase pay. They are soaking up demand, not enough to eliminate wage growth, but enough to slow it down.

Unemployment remains low enough to pressure businesses to keep raising wages. How fast? Time will tell, but Florida’s jobs picture indicates that this economic expansion has legs, at least for the near term.

Select unemployment rates for August:

Florida 3.3 percent

U.S. 3.7 percent

Tampa Bay 3.5 percent

Citrus 5.2 percent

Hernando 4.8 percent

Hillsborough 3.4 percent

Manatee 3.5 percent

Pasco 3.8 percent

Pinellas 3.3 percent

Sarasota 3.4 percent

Hendry (highest in Florida) 8.2 percent

Monroe (lowest in Florida) 2.4 percent