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Florida unemployment rate rises slightly, job creation slows down

Gov. Rick Scott, shown at the Republican Governors Association annual conference in Orlando earlier this week, is scheduled to discuss the state's latest jobs report this morning during a visit to St. Augustine.
[Associated Press]

Published Nov. 18, 2016

After being stuck for five months at 4.7 percent, Florida's unemployment rate finally budged in October.

But not in the right direction.

The jobless rate ticked up a notch to 4.8 percent, though it's still down from 5.1 percent a year ago, according to figures released Friday morning by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The U.S. unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in October.

Florida job creation slowed as well with the state adding only 5,700 jobs over the month, just a fraction of the 23,000 jobs added a month earlier. Year over year, Florida has added 253,300 jobs, an increase of 3.1 percent.

Fresh back from meeting with President-elect Donald Trump in Washington., D.C., Gov. Rick Scott talked about the jobs report Friday morning at Ideal Aluminum, a manufacturer of aluminum fences, gates and railings in St. Augustine.

Scott, who typically discounts government jobs, as usual honed in on the private marketplace only, noting the state added 8,900 private sector jobs over the month.

Through much of the recession, economists said, the dramatic drop in unemployment may have been overstated because there were many discouraged job seekers who were no longer actively looking for work and therefore not included in unemployment calculations.

That has begun to change, however. Between a mix of new Floridians and those re-entering the labor market, participation in the state's labor force has risen. The rise was particularly strong in October with 64,000 Floridians added to the state's labor force of 9.8 million. Over the year, the labor force has risen by 161,000.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate was unchanged for the month at 4.7 percent and largely static from a year ago when it was 4.8 percent.

Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, cautioned against reading too much into a rise in static unemployment rates, especially since the labor market is growing. The same thing is happening on the national level, he said.

"(Federal Reserve Chairman) Janet Yellen said (Thursday) the country is pretty close to full employment at this time and I think that's right," Brown said in expectation the Fed is very likely to start raising interest rates gradually starting with its mid-December meeting.

Since becoming governor nearly six years ago, Scott and his office have focused on the unemployment rate and job creation almost exclusively, minimizing labor force participation rates.

That, too, is changing. In a news release Friday, Scott's office hailed the 64,000 increase in Florida's labor force as a sign of recovery with Floridians more confident in their ability to find opportunity in the job market.

"We are excited that people are re-entering the labor force to pursue the next step in their careers," said Cissy Proctor, executive director of the DEO.

The governor's news release does not explicitly note that the unemployment rate rose over the month.

Contact Jeff Harrington at jharrington@tampabay.com. Follow @JeffMHarrington.

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