Palm Beach County unemployment below 4%, construction hiring strong

Unemployment rates in Palm Beach County and Florida remained microscopically low in November, although the region’s jobs picture also showed some signs of softness.

The county’s jobless rate rose to 3.8 percent in November, up from 3.6 percent in October, Florida’s labor department said Friday. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment remained at 3.6 percent, unchanged from October, and better than the national rate of 4.1 percent.

Related: As “middle-skill” jobs go unfilled, Business Development Board launches labor study

Palm Beach County added jobs at a robust pace from October to November, but annual job growth was sluggish.

After a sustained run at the head of the pack, Florida relinquished its spot as the strongest job creator among large states. Florida posted job growth of 2.3 percent from November 2016 to November 2017, a pace eclipsed by Texas’ 2.7 percent but ahead of California’s 1.7 percent and New York’s 1.2 percent.

“Florida is a national leader in job creation, and the rest of the nation needs to follow our lead,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

While Palm Beach County’s labor market cooled a bit in November, the picture has improved markedly from the double-digit unemployment rates of the Great Recession.

“The job market this holiday season continues to be among the brightest in nearly a decade,” said Steve Craig, president and chief executive of CareerSource Palm Beach County, the nonprofit job-placement agency.

Palm Beach County’s annual pace of job growth fell to just 0.4 percent in November, one of the worst showings among Florida’s metro areas.

On the bright side, job openings are more plentiful. CareerSource reported 21,184 positions being advertised in November, an increase of more than 1,700 from October and up nearly 1,200 from November 2016.

Palm Beach County’s once-moribund construction sector continued to gain momentum. Builders added 3,500 jobs from October to November, and the construction industry’s annual pace of growth soared to 9.7 percent.

“There are chronic labor shortages for construction tradespeople,” said Richard Reeder, associate dean at Palm Beach State College’s trade and industry program.

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, Brightline’s railroad station in downtown West Palm Beach, The Bristol condo tower on Flagler Drive and new bridges between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.

Construction isn’t the only area where skilled workers are in demand. Graduates of Palm Beach State College’s programs for machinists and diesel mechanics also find jobs quickly.

“Our students are immediately finding work, and some of them get recruited in advance,” Reeder said.

Meanwhile, Florida’s lowest-paid workers are set to get a raise Jan. 1, when the state minimum wage increases from $8.10 an hour to $8.25 an hour, a 1.9 percent bump.

Among Florida’s 67 counties, unemployment rates ranged from a low of 3 percent in St. Johns County to a high of 7.3 percent in rural Hendry County.

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