Fewer people in South Florida are seeking unemployment aid, an encouraging sign for the labor market at a time when its recovery seems in doubt. However, the declines are slowing, which could signal a new phase in the rebound.
Florida counties receive their May employment reports on Friday, two weeks after the Labor Department issued a brutal May report for the nation as a whole. On Friday, South Florida will learn whether it bucked the trend of slow hiring or managed to elude the national slowdown.
The latest numbers on unemployment claims hint at stability. Broward and Miami-Dade continued to see declines in claims when compared to the prior year, a trend that has been underway since the start of 2010.
For sure, the May claims report offers another measure of just how brutal South Florida’s labor market has become.
Nearly five years after the official start of the 2007-09 recession, 6,500 people in Broward filed for their first unemployment benefits. In Miami-Dade, 9,800 people did. Combined, that’s 70 percent more than in May 2006.
For Broward, May brought a 12 percent decline in first-time claims from the prior year. Miami-Dade saw a 7 percent decline. Both were slowdowns from prior months’ declines, but both still show South Florida is well into its third year of a shrinking pool of first-time claims.
Gov. Rick Scott faces charges that new rules on unemployment claims have discouraged Floridians from applying for the aid, which would bring down the claim numbers even if labor conditions weren’t improving.
Florida now requires online applications for benefits, including a 45-question test designed to evaluate the applicants’ job skills. His administration denies the accusations, saying the changes make it easier to get people off unemployment and back to work.
The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine tracks 60 local indicators in an effort to chart South Florida’s recovery from the Great Recession. By comparing current conditions to where they were before the downturn, the ETM attempts to measure how far back the recession set the economy. The answer so far: June 2003. Visit ETM headquarters at miamiherald.com/economic-time-machine for the latest updates.