Florida unemployment holds at 3.9 percent, state adds 9,600 jobs

Florida's unemployment rate held at 3.9 percent in April, rounding out the seventh straight month at that level. Pictured is a job fair in 2015. [EVE EDELHEIT   I   Times, 2015]
Florida's unemployment rate held at 3.9 percent in April, rounding out the seventh straight month at that level. Pictured is a job fair in 2015. [EVE EDELHEIT I Times, 2015]
Published May 18, 2018

Florida's economy appears to have plateaued with its unemployment rate holding at 3.9 percent for the seventh straight month, according to the April report released Friday.

But some economists say it may be a good thing if the rate doesn't fall much more, and that a slight uptick wouldn't be bad.

"It's pretty darn low," Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, said. "We're seeing a lot of (Federal Reserve) officials express concern about the low unemployment. It's below what we'd consider a natural rate."

The Federal Reserve, Brown said, considers about 4.5 percent unemployment a sustainable rate.

In Tampa Bay, unemployment was 3.2 percent, down from 3.6 percent in April. Hillsborough County's unemployment rate dropped from 3.4 percent to 3.1 percent, Hernando dipped from 4.7 percent to 4.2 percent, Pinellas sunk from 3.4 percent to 3.1 percent and Pasco inched down from 4 percent to 3.6 percent over the month.

Nationally, the unemployment rate matches Florida's 3.9 percent.

Despite the low jobless rate, the state — along with the rest of the country — is still struggling with stagnant wages. When combined with the inflation rate, that means less purchasing power for consumers.

"For the typical worker, it may seem like you're just running in place," Brown said.

Businesses, Brown said, have remained in savings mode throughout the recovery, working to keep their costs low. Even new hires aren't seeing larger pay packages, as that would require raising wages for current employees as well. Instead, some companies are incentivizing new hires with hiring bonuses or more benefits.

The Sunshine State added a modest 9,600 jobs over the month.

Professional and business services are still adding the most jobs year-over-year (39,400), followed by construction (34,900) and leisure and hospitality (34,100). As it was in March, information was the only sector to lose jobs year-over-year (1,600).

Florida added the third-highest number of construction jobs over the year, following California (59,500) and Texas (40,600) according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

"Firms in many parts of the country are working to keep pace with growing demand for construction services," said the association's chief economist Ken Simonson. "Many of those firms are having a hard time finding and hiring enough qualified workers as the pool of available workers remains very tight."

Related coverage: Florida's economy expected to stay strong for 2018>

Among Florida metros, Tampa Bay added the second-highest number of jobs over the year (34,200), just behind Orlando (40,000 jobs).

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Contact this reporter at or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.