Palm Beach County unemployment dips to 4.4% in August

Updated Sept 15, 2017
Construction cranes in downtown West Palm Beach. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

As the region’s building sector continues to bounce back, Palm Beach County’s unemployment rate dipped to 4.4 percent in August, down from 4.5 percent in July, state labor officials said Friday.

The county’s jobless rate was 5.3 percent in August 2016.

Construction rebound drives strong job growth in Palm Beach County

Reflecting healthy hiring, the county’s labor market posted another month of robust job growth. The number of jobs in Palm Beach County rose 2.6 percent from August 2016, matching the state’s pace.

The catch-all category of education and health services added 4,300 jobs in Palm Beach County over the past year. The low-paying leisure and hospitality sector added 3,700 jobs, while construction, a crucial barometer of the county’s economy, added 3,500 jobs.

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Construction jobs disappeared during the Great Recession, and the return of the building sector is a major driver of job growth. Large-scale homebuilding has yet to resume, but construction workers have been toiling at other types of structures, including apartment complexes, the parking garage at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, Brightline’s railroad station, Bristol condo tower in West Palm Beach and new bridges between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.

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Hurricane Irma is likely to spur a rebuilding boom in the Keys and on Florida’s Gulf Coast, creating new demand for construction workers.

“Obviously, it’s going to apply wage pressure throughout the system,” said Peter Pignataro, manager of performance analysis at CareerSource, the public-private job-placement agency. “There are workers here who will take positions elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, Palm Beach County’s financial sector lost 1,600 jobs over the past year.

Florida again posted the fastest job growth among large states, but Texas closed the gap. Texas’ job growth over the past year was 2.5 percent, just behind Florida’s 2.6 percent.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4 percent in August, down from 4.1 percent in July. The national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent in August.

Among Florida’s 67 counties, unemployment rates ranged from a low of 2.7 percent in Monroe County, which was hammered by Hurricane Irma, to a high of 10.2 percent in rural Hendry County.