Hiring has slowed and wages stagnated, while households reported a slight improvement in employment, sliding the national unemployment rate to 7.2 percent in September.
Only 148,000 jobs were created in September, the Labor Department reported Tuesday in a report delayed nearly three weeks by the government shutdown. Tourism suffered a loss of 13,000 jobs, a loss for the second time in three months.
In Florida, tourism is the No. 1 industry.
University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith said pent-up demand for a vacation largely has been satisfied, so he expected the industry to slow. “It’s not going to be the lead sled dog pulling us along in the recovery much longer here,” he said.
Bankrate.com Senior Financial Analyst Greg McBride said from his North Palm Beach office Tuesday that stagnant wages mean people have less to spend. Average hourly earnings rose 49 cents in the past year and were $24.09 in September, according to the latest Labor Department calculations.
“That means fewer trips to Florida,” McBride said.
McBride said a Bankrate report on consumer spending released Tuesday indicated people are holding back — 72 percent of those surveyed. Low consumer demand causes sluggish hiring, he said.
“That’s why we have a slow growth economy where demand is very weak,” he said. “Consumers have the feeling they are just treading water financially.”
While summer and fall are slow times for tourism in Palm Beach County, there are some bright notes.
Hurricane Grill and Wings, Winn-Dixie and Comcast are holding job fairs in the next week.
Peter Guala and his business partner Tom Markert are opening a Hurricane Grill and Wings in Boynton Beach next month, so they are holding a job fair Thursday through Saturday. People have stopped and asked about job opportunities as they’ve seen the construction, Guala said, and interest seems to be high from restaurant workers.
“Our employees are from the industry, most who are looking for a change,” he said.
Florida has been doing better than the national labor market, said Snaith, who is director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness.
“Being ahead of what is a sub-par recovery is not saying Florida’s recovery has been robust,” he said.
However, economists noted that job gains were broadly based, and included a sizable boost in construction, a positive sign for Florida’s economy. Lately, however, national news has overshadowed any positive gains and brought a pall to consumer and business-owner sentiment.
The shutdown and short-term postponement of decisions on the budget and debt ceiling leaves the economy and employers in a “fog of uncertainty,” Snaith said. His recent national forecast found the job market will need until at least 2020 to recover at the current pace.
The latest job numbers don’t bode well for holiday spending and hiring either, National Retail Federal chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said Tuesday in an analysis. October numbers due out Nov. 8 are expected to reflect some business fall-off during the shutdown.
“Americans need to believe we are on a solid path out of this troubled economy and so far, they haven’t been given any reason to believe that, thus impacting their spending decisions and retailers’ ability to increase their payrolls,” he said.
Long-term unemployment remains high, as more than 1 in 4 people counted as unemployed has been without a job for at least a year. Only those who have looked for work in the past four weeks are considered unemployed.
Not included in the 7.2 percent unemployment numbers are those who want to work, but have given up. The unemployment rate including those individuals is 13.6 percent.
Worker advocates have begun pushing for extension of federal unemployment benefits that kick in after state checks stop, because the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program expires at the end of the year.
“That would slow the recovery, even as it causes serious hardship for many workers who are still struggling to find jobs,” said Chad Stone, chief economist with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in his job report analysis.
In Florida, unemployed workers have 19 weeks available from the state, and an additional 27 weeks from the federal extended benefits, but next year the state will cut benefits to 16 weeks if the unemployment rate remains at 7 percent.
The September employment report for Florida was due last Friday, but it has been delayed. The Department of Economic Opportunity had no information Tuesday indicating when it would be released.
September job creation
148,000 — Total
20,800 — Retail trade
20,200 — Temporary help services
22,000 — Government
20,000 — Construction
17,900 — Transit and ground passenger transportation
13,700 — Health care and social assistance
9,000 — Durable goods manufacturing
- 2,000 — Financial activities
- 10,800 — Accommodation and food services
Source: U.S. Labor Department
U.S. jobless rate in Sept. 7.2 percent
Florida jobless rate in August 7 percent
Palm Beach County jobless rate in August 7.5 percent