Florida created more jobs in October than any other state, helping drop the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent.
The labor force has shrunk again, also contributing to the unemployment rate drop. But the 44,600 jobs created in October and 21,600 created in September are very positive trends, economists say. Growth in October was at a rate unseen since June 2006, before the housing market collapse and subsequent recession, according to a report released Friday by the Department of Economic Opportunity.
“We’ve been in a recovery now for about 4 1/2 years, and for many people it doesn’t seem like a recovery, but that’s about to change going into 2014,” said Scott Brown, chief economist in Raymond James & Associates’ St. Petersburg office.
The state has fared better than the nation as a whole for the past seven months, as the U.S. rate bumped up in October to 7.3 percent.
Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate fell to 6.7 percent in October, from 7.1 percent in September; Martin County was 6.9 percent, down 0.4 points; St. Lucie County was 8.8 percent, down from 9.5 percent in September. Those numbers should not be compared to state and national unemployment numbers, which are adjusted for seasonal fluctuations.
“The most recent couple of months, the labor force shrank,” said economist William Stronge, professor emeritus at Florida Atlantic University. “That can mean an increase in discouraged workers or people have moved away or fewer people have moved in.”
In Palm Beach County, tourism has contributed to growth in retail trade (4,800 in October compared to the previous year) and leisure and hospitality (1,800), Stronge said. Education and health services (2,100) are seeing job growth because of an influx of private colleges and the area’s retiree population, he said.
Construction continues to “limp” along, Stronge said, with a loss of 600 jobs in the past year. Because construction has not picked up much, finance and insurance jobs are suffering and blue collar jobs in landscaping, security and personal services lag, he said.
“We’re probably doing better than the nation,” Stronge said. “That may be due to the fact we’re more of a consumer-driven economy.”
Palm Beach County is showing modest job growth over the past month and over the past year compared to other metropolitan areas of the state. While on par with Broward County, both the Naples area and Vero Beach area are growing much faster, Labor Department figures show.
“The area’s economy is substantially better — the unemployment rate for October is the lowest in five years and nearly half of what it was at the peak of the ‘Great Recession’ in summer 2010,” stated Steve Craig, president and CEO of the county’s state-charted workforce development agency, Workforce Alliance in a news release Friday.
The state essentially skipped a month reporting its jobs figures due to the federal shutdown in October. Labor Department job reports were delayed and figures for both September and October were released Friday. Florida’s unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 6.8 percent in September.
“Florida had reasonable job growth in last couple months,” The PNC Financial Services Group economist Mekael Teshome said. “It was consistent with the national trend where we had surprisingly strong job growth.”
When the unemployment rate fell to 6.8 percent in September, it was the first time in five years the rate had been below 7 percent. The Federal Reserve considers between 5 and 6 percent to be a normal unemployment rate.
Nationally, for every job opening, there were 2.9 people looking for work, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released Friday by the Labor Department. During the worst of the recession job decline, the ratio was at 6.7 to 1, but is still elevated.
Economic Policy Institute economist Elise Gould said the ratio would be higher and more accurate if the 5 million people who have dropped out of the labor force were counted. Once the job market improves, they are likely to be job seekers again, she said.
In Florida, private sector employment continued to drive job gains, adding 67,200 in the past two months. The government lost 1,800 jobs in October and gained only 800 in September, but is down 9,000 jobs from October 2012.
“Over the last two months, the state has added more than 67,000 private sector jobs. This is great news for Florida families,” Gov. Rick Scott stated in a news release Friday morning.
Statewide, construction showed a significant boost in October. Teshome said that “attests to the strength of the housing market recovery.”
With housing improving and consumer spending stronger, Teshome said the holiday season should benefit.
“The major growth drivers of Florida’s economy are in recovery mode, and they’re kicking it into gear going into 2014,” he said.
Jobs growth by industry
Industry ……….. Oct …….. Sept
Construction …10,500 ….1,300
Retail trade ….. 9,900 …..1,800
activities ……. 2,600 ……- 500
business svcs 11,300 …..3,400
Educational svcs 3,200 …. 600
hospitality …….11,000 …..7,700
Government ……-1,800 …… 800
Source: FL Department of Economic Opportunity