As Florida jobless rate nudges lower, a closer look behind the numbers

Published Sep. 23, 2013

Florida's monthly unemployment rate dipping in August from 7.1 to 7 percent is hardly a jaw-dropping change but at least moves us in the right direction. Here are 10 quick peeks behind these numbers to offer a broader sense of what's happening in the job markets.

10. In the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough County was the big job producer, employing 24,658 more in the past year (August to August), followed by Pinellas (+17,284), Pasco (+7,410), Hernando (+2,380) and Citrus (+1,247).

9. The pattern holds true for positions created in just the past month (August versus July 2013). Hillsborough created 1,798 jobs, followed by Pinellas (+1,260), Pasco (+540) and Hernando (+173), while Citrus lost 70 jobs. Month-to-month job comparisons mean less than year-to-year figures.

8. Nineteen of Florida's 22 metro areas enjoyed over-the-year job gains in August. The winners: Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (+3.6 percent), Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach (+3.1 percent) and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (+1.9 percent).

7. Three smaller metro areas lost jobs over the year: Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach (-2,700 jobs, -3.6 percent), Palm Coast (-600 jobs, -2.9 percent) and Lakeland-Winter Haven (-300 jobs, -0.2 percent).

6. Statewide, Florida created 131,400 jobs in the past year, topped only by Texas (+274,700) and California (+223,900).

5. Better yet, Florida's 1.6 percentage point drop in unemployment was the biggest decline of any state in the past year.

4. Not so great: Florida stumbled in the past month by losing 4,700 jobs from July to August this year. The largest over-the-month decrease in employment occurred in Georgia (-16,100), Ohio (-8,200) and Arizona (-7,900).

3. Nationally, August employment increased in 29 states, decreased in 20 states and the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in Montana. The largest over-the-month increases in employment occurred in New York (+30,400) and California (+29,100).

2. A factor in Florida's unemployment rate declining slightly in August was a contraction in the state's labor pool (more people stopped looking for work). Florida's labor force in August was 9.39 million, compared with 9.40 million in July and 9.42 million in June.

1. In Florida over the past year, the industry gaining the most jobs was trade, transportation and utilities (+52,400 jobs, +3.4 percent). Right behind was tourism or "leisure and hospitality" (+21,900 jobs, +2.2 percent), professional and business services (+21,300 jobs, +2.0 percent) and construction (+19,500 jobs, +5.7 percent).

The job losers? Total government employment fell (-5,800 jobs, -0.5 percent) as did manufacturing (-700 jobs, -0.2 percent) over the year.

The manufacturing decline, while not big, is disturbing given all the buzz over Florida's efforts to preserve and expand its modest manufacturing base. That includes the recent hype about "reshoring," or bringing back manufacturing jobs once lost to cheaper overseas locations, as well as efforts (thanks to federal grants to Florida community colleges) to train more people in advanced manufacturing techniques.

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Robert Trigaux can be reached at