Businesses such as Transcend Media in Greenacres are contributing to the trajectory of Florida employment, which is improving at a faster rate than the national average.
Statewide the unemployment rate ticked down 0.1 points to 7.1 percent in May, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.
Job creation, however, fell for the first time in a year, as May showed a loss of 6,200 jobs. The figures come from two different surveys, so the results don’t always jibe.
“We are coming into our busiest time of the year” and plan to add 50 to 75 workers in the next 30 days, CEO Jason Nauman said.
The company fields calls for a variety of colleges and universities, giving prospective students information on degree programs. Since Nauman established the business in Palm Beach County four years ago, it has grown from one employee to 100, most at the Greenacres headquarters.
Few Florida companies are growing at that rate, but the state has kicked out of the malaise that kept it dragging behind most of the nation for the first three years of the recovery.
The state has added 122,000 jobs in the past year, and the unemployment rate has plunged from 7.8 percent in February when both the state and national rates were equal. Since then, the national rate has stalled at 7.6 percent.
“I think what we’re seeing in Florida is indicative of the overall situation in the U.S.,” said Chief Economist Scott Brown with Raymond James & Associates’ St. Petersburg office. “The economy is gradually getting better.”
The widening gap is because Florida “has a stronger housing recovery,” said economist Mekael Teshome with The PNC Financial Services Group. That “bounce” is higher because it had farther to come back, he said, and still has one of the highest inventories of foreclosures in the nation.
Brown said to be careful about interpreting the unemployment rates too strictly. Many people still have not returned to the job search and many who are employed are working lower-tier jobs than they should be. College graduates are working fast food and teens can’t find jobs, he said.
As the nation recovers it benefits Florida, Teshome said, because the state relies on people to move or visit for much of its economic health.
In Palm Beach County, the unemployment rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 7 percent; Martin County gained 0.1 to 6.9 percent and St. Lucie added 0.4 to 9.3 percent, DEO’s May report showed. Those rates are not seasonally adjusted, so should not be compared directly to the statewide rate.
Because summer is the slow season in South Florida, rising jobless rates are common this time of year. The county’s rate is significantly lower than the 8.6 percent seen last May.
Palm Beach County saw significant job growth since May 2012, though not in high-wage industries like construction (-700). Retail trade (2,400), education and health services (3,200) and local government (1,300) led the way. Professional and business services (1,800) also continued to be strong.
“It does look like our tourist industry is back, our consumers are back,” Economist William Stronge said. The Florida Atlantic University professor emeritus said growth in higher-wage fields in business and professional services is a positive sign, though most jobs still are being created in such lower-wage industries as health care and retail sales.
“Palm Beach County gained nearly 7,000 jobs over the year and local unemployment continues to be among the lowest we’ve seen in five years,” Workforce Alliance President and CEO Steve Craig said in a statement from the state-chartered workforce development agency.
Broward County saw stronger employment gains over the past year, up 2 percent compared to Palm Beach’s 1.3 percent. Broward’s construction employment had the biggest relative gain with a 10 percent increase.
Florida was one of 25 states that saw unemployment rates fall last month, and has one of the larger year-over-year drops. However, job losses also were significant, coming in third behind Pennsylvania and South Carolina, the Labor Department reported.
North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate at 3.2 percent, and Ohio created the most jobs with 32,100.
Gov. Rick Scott, who has been in Paris on an economic development trip, said in a statement: “Each month we continue to distance ourselves from the national unemployment rate, and it is clear we are succeeding in growing opportunities for Florida families to pursue the American Dream.”
Job creation in May
Florida figures show improvement in services industries
Total nonfarm workers DOWN 6,200
Construction DOWN 7,500
Manufacturing UP 200
Wholesale trade DOWN 500
Retail trade UP 200
Information UP 1,000
Finance and insurance DOWN 3,200
Professional and business services UP 5,400
Health care and social assistance UP 2,500
Leisure and hospitality DOWN 2,400
Source: Department of Economic Opportunity, seasonal adjusted figures