Palm Beach County jobless rate jumped in January as more sought work


Palm Beach County’s jobless rate jumped in January as the number of official workers swelled, a trend economists interpret as a sign of health rather than weakness.

The county’s unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in January, Florida’s labor department said Monday. That’s up from 4.6 percent in December and 4.8 percent a year ago.

More than 721,000 Palm Beach County residents were counted in the county’s formal labor market in January, up from less than 700,000 in January 2016.

So even though more people are working, unemployment rose to its highest level since last summer.

“We did see an increase in the unemployment rate, but not for bad reasons,” said Mekael Teshome, PNC Bank’s Florida economist. “It signals that there’s confidence in the economic outlook. Workers feel like if they were to go looking for a job, they’d be able to find one.”

Florida saw a similar trend. The seasonally adjusted unemployment of 5 percent in January was unchanged from a year ago, primarily because some 250,000 new workers joined the official labor force in that time.

Meanwhile, Palm Beach County’s 2.8 percent pace of job growth over the past year continued to trail the state’s growth rate of 3.2 percent, but by a narrower margin than in past months.

Among Palm Beach County industries, the biggest gain over the past year came in the low-paying leisure and hospitality industry, which added 4,100 jobs since January 2016. Other sectors adding jobs were education and health services, which grew by 3,400 positions, and construction, which added 3,100 jobs.

Palm Beach County construction employment rose by nearly 10 percent over the past year, reversing a trend of tepid gains in that industry. The building sector had been hampered by levels of home construction that are low compared to pre-recession levels.

Meanwhile, Florida continues to lead large states in job growth, the U.S. Labor Department said Monday. Its 3.4 percent seasonally adjusted pace of job growth ranked well ahead of California’s 2 percent, Texas’ 1.9 percent and New York’s 1.5 percent.

Florida’s labor market has excelled in large part because it of increased tourism and a return to population growth. In other words, Teshome said, Florida’s boom-and-bust economy remains in boom mode.

“We really have put the Great Recession behind us,” Teshome said. “For 2017, the story is that we’re getting back to normal.”

For Palm Beach County workers, however, the economic signals have been mixed. The county’s average weekly wage rose to $973 in the third quarter of 2016, a 5 percent increase from the third quarter of 2015, according to a survey released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The national average for wage growth was 5.4 percent. Palm Beach County rated a subpar 215th among the nation’s 345 largest counties.

Palm Beach County, long the highest-wage county in Florida, was passed by Hillsborough County and Miami-Dade County.

It’s unclear exactly why Palm Beach County wages have weakened, although Palm Beach County’s job growth lagged Florida’s for much of 2016.

Among Florida’s 67 counties, unemployment ranged from a low of 3.5 percent in Monroe County to a high of 8.1 percent in Hendry County.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation & World

J. Crew apologizes after photo of black model with messy hair sparks controversy
J. Crew apologizes after photo of black model with messy hair sparks controversy

J. Crew is facing criticism after a photo of one of its models and her seemingly unkempt hair surfaced online. The black woman, dressed in a Madewell dress, was photographed with her natural hair messily pulled back in a ponytail. But everyone wasn’t impressed with the look. >> Read more trending news One Twitter user took to the platform...
Heroin dealer convicted of manslaughter after buyer fatally overdoses 
Heroin dealer convicted of manslaughter after buyer fatally overdoses 

A drug dealer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after selling heroin to a man who later died of an overdose from the opioid.  April Thomas Guthrie, 34, was also convicted of delivery of heroin and was sentenced to three to five years, according to WNCT.  Kendal Walbert died of a heroin overdose in August 2014 after buying heroin...
Revolving restaurant had no protections to stop boy's death, lawsuit says
Revolving restaurant had no protections to stop boy's death, lawsuit says

The company accused of negligence after a 5-year-old died at the Sun Dial restaurant had no comment Friday about a lawsuit filed against it. “Due to the pending litigation, we are not commenting on the matter,” Marriott International, Inc. spokesman Jeff Flaherty told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an email.  The parents of ...
Teen who biked 13 miles to work given car as present by coworkers
Teen who biked 13 miles to work given car as present by coworkers

Noah Robinson rode his bike to work daily.  The 19-year-old made the 13-mile round-trip commute to his job at Glastender in the rain and even as the temperatures began to drop.  That ended Nov. 10, when his coworkers surprised Robinson with a car for his birthday.  "I want everybody to know that I'm really grateful for everything...
Truck driver with anti-Trump bumper sticker arrested on unrelated charge
Truck driver with anti-Trump bumper sticker arrested on unrelated charge

The Texas driver of a truck sporting a large anti-Trump window decal was arrested Thursday, the Houston Chronicle reports. The truck, and its driver, Karen Fonseca, gained notoriety after a sheriff threatened a charge of disorderly conduct for the decal reading, “(EXPLETIVE) TRUMP AND (EXPLETIVE) YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” ...
More Stories