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Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida's unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in October, down from 3.8 percent in September, state figures released Friday said. Pictured is a job fair. | [Times file photo]
Published Nov. 17, 2017

As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September.

According to state figures released Friday, the unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent in October, down from 3.8 percent in September. That makes this month's jobless rate the lowest since February 2007.

"This kind of gain basically says we're back on track," said PNC economist Mekael Teshome.

The number of jobs added or lost comes from data provided by employers, while the unemployment rate is drawn from household surveys.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate was unchanged from last month, sticking at 3.3 percent for October. Hillsborough County's unemployment rate dipped slightly from 3.3 percent in September to 3.2 percent in October. Pinellas County's rate was unchanged at 3.1 percent, as was Hernando County at 4.3 percent. Pasco County's rate dropped from 3.7 percent to 3.6 percent over the month.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate, PNC's Teshome said, is also going down for the right reasons — the workforce is growing and more jobs are being filled, as opposed to the jobless rate going down because people are exiting the labor pool.

The region has added 28,700 jobs over the year, 27,000 of which were private-sector jobs, Gov. Rick Scott pointed out. Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, called the rebound from Hurricane Irma proof "that we have the best economic climate in the nation."

Florida also added the most construction jobs of any state over the month — 23,800 — according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

"The pickup in construction jobs in Florida and Georgia reflects a rebound from decreases in September, when Hurricane Irma shut down projects and displaced workers," association chief economist Ken Simonson said in a statement.

Looking forward, Teshome said he expects job growth to slow down for 2018.

"We've reached a very low rate of unemployment," he said. That makes it harder for businesses to find and bring in new employees.

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

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