Tampa Bay's unemployment rate rises to 7.2 percent

Published July 20, 2013

Has Tampa Bay caught a case of recovery interruptus?

After starting 2013 on a tear, the bay area's jobs recovery has hit a bumpy patch the past couple of months.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent, hitting its highest point since February as the metro area shed 13,800 jobs in June. That's on top of 300 jobs lost a month earlier.

Unlike statewide figures, metro regional data is not seasonally adjusted so it tends to fluctuate more, with unemployment typically rising in the summer months when school is out of session. However, even adjusted numbers show there's been a slowdown.

Unemployment statewide has barely budged since April, with the number of jobs created last month (9,300) barely offsetting the number of jobs lost in May (6,200).

Mekael Teshome, an economist who tracks Florida for PNC Bank, said he's not overly concerned with the state's "downshifting in job growth" between the first and second quarter.

"This is a temporary speed bump," Teshome said. "The pieces are still there to move the recovery forward."

Among those pieces: home prices continue rising in tandem with falling foreclosures; the broader U.S. economy is stronger; and Florida's growing population is fueling demand in health care, tourism and financial services.

Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James Financial, concurred that the recovery may be choppy, but that doesn't mean it has derailed.

"Recoveries are never completely smooth," he said. "I wouldn't say it's stalled just yet."

Brown acknowledged a concern that rising mortgage rates would crimp housing, but, he added, "I'm not hearing a lot of complaints from the home builders."

To him, the latest snapshot from the state is just more evidence Floridians still face a prolonged climb to full recovery even though the unemployment rate has fallen dramatically the past three years.

Much of the drop so far may be overstated, economists say, because the jobless rate doesn't include part-timers seeking full-time jobs nor discouraged job seekers who have temporarily given up looking.

The bay area's unemployment rate rose from 6.8 percent to 7.2 percent, with all local counties posting higher rates, according to figures released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Year-over year, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater remains the biggest job generator among major metros. It's up by 33,300 jobs compared with June 2012, about 10,000 jobs more than the state's second best-performing metro, Orlando.

The bay area's two biggest job-losing industries last month were accommodations/food services (down 2,600 jobs) and education/health services (down 2,000 jobs).

The metro results came a day after federal officials announced that Florida's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.1 percent in June.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the vast majority of the 9,300 jobs Florida added came in the public sector; only 2,300 were from the private sector.

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Statewide figures were inadvertently released a day ahead of schedule by the federal government.