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Job growth in Florida, Palm Beach County slows

Florida’s labor market remains near full employment, but job creation has slowed markedly, according to state and federal reports released Monday.

Related: The good and bad of Florida’s labor market in three charts

Florida’s annual pace of job growth fell to 1.8 percent in January, down from 2.6 percent in December. The state routinely had ranked among the national leaders in job creation in recent years, but in January Florida fell to 10th place, trailing California, Texas and a number of smaller states.

Perhaps the cooling of Florida’s labor market was inevitable. Texas, for instance, long led the nation in job growth amid an energy boom, only to see its pace of job creation slow as oil prices plunged.

Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services, says Florida’s current pace looks “sustainable.”

“I would expect Florida will continue to see above-average job growth, just not as far ahead of the national average as it has been,” Faucher said. “You worry that if job growth is too strong, that’s going to overheat the labor market.”

Palm Beach County, for its part, turned in another tepid performance, with job growth of 1.3 percent, a bit below the national average of 1.5 percent.

Despite the slowdown in job creation, unemployment rates remain near historic lows. The statewide unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in January, unchanged from December and slightly below the national unemployment of 4.1 percent.

In Palm Beach County, the jobless rate rose to 3.9 percent in January from 3.5 percent in December. The county numbers aren’t seasonally adjusted, and employment peaks in December for the holiday shopping frenzy. 

In his statement about the monthly jobs numbers, Gov. Rick Scott made no mention of the slowdown in job growth.

Construction remains a bright spot in Florida’s labor market. The construction sector was the fastest-growing industry, adding positions at a 5.8 percent clip over the past year.

In Palm Beach County, houses are under construction in the new city of Westlake and at Arden west of Lion Country Safari. The two projects mark a return to the large-scale homebuilding that fell dormant after the housing crash.

And construction workers have been building apartment complexes such as the Park-Line and Broadstone in downtown West Palm Beach, The Bristol condo tower on Flagler Drive and the new Southern Boulevard bridge between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.

Related: Florida economy in Rick Scott era: Success story or disappointment?

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