In January, Mitchell Ball lost his $33-an-hour job as a respiratory therapist. On Monday, the 50-year-old finally will head back to work earning minimum wage.
The last time I worked for minimum wage, I was a teenager, Ball said Friday afternoon from his home in Hollywood. On Monday, hes scheduled for his first shift as a part-time Office Max clerk, an entry-level job with entry-level pay. Right now, I cant be choosy. Its a job.
New hiring numbers show why Ball should feel grateful for his upcoming paycheck. Job growth slowed sharply last month in Miami-Dade, and a number of employment indicators continued heading the wrong way. And while Broward shook off its recent hiring downturn, the overall numbers show a labor market still struggling to regain the momentum it had at the start of 2012.
Unemployment in Miami-Dade stalled at 9.5 percent, the lowest since January 2009. Still, the numbers behind the rate showed a drop in the number of people working last month.
In fact, Miami-Dades jobless rate would have leapt to 10 percent if not for a growing number of unemployed people giving up their job search and dropping out of the labor force. Statisticians only count people looking for work as unemployed.
Things are definitely slowing down, said Robert Cruz, Miami-Dades chief economist. These last two months of employment numbers are quite disappointing.
Florida saw its unemployment rate increase from 8.6 percent to 8.8 percent thanks to fewer people working, and fewer people looking for work. Both Florida and Miami-Dade received seasonally adjusted unemployment rates Friday, which are considered the most accurate measures of a labor force that rises and falls with vacation seasons and school vacations.
In two weeks, a federal labor agency will issue seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Broward and the rest of Floridas counties. Browards raw unemployment rate also rose last month from 7.8 percent to 8.1 percent.
Depressed construction hiring continues to be the heaviest anchor for South Floridas employment recovery. Broward lost 1,200 construction jobs from a year ago, and Miami-Dade lost 3,500. Construction accounted for about 40 percent of all job losses in both counties.
Even so, Broward managed to end a troubling trend for its payroll numbers. After dropping in May and June, employers overall added 4,800 payroll positions compared to a year ago. That more than makes up for the 1,700 jobs lost in the prior two months.
Miami-Dades payroll numbers headed in the other direction last month. While employers added 5,600 positions in July compared to the prior year, it was the worst hiring number since September 2010.
The July numbers were not too good for Miami, said Chris Lafakis, who covers Floridas economy for Moodys. Miamis recovery has certainly slowed over the past few months.
The July report also contained a particularly troubling statistic. For the first time in 28 months, the hospitality sector lost jobs. Hospitality, which includes hotels and restaurants, was one of the first industries to begin adding jobs after the recession. And while Miami-Dade hotels and restaurants showed gains in July, the overall hospitality sector saw a small drop. In fact, revisions to the June numbers showed a loss of hospitality jobs in that month, too.
Other indicators including hotel taxes and occupancy rates dont show signs of weakness, so the hiring numbers could be a blip. And healthcare has proven the No. 1 source of new jobs in South Florida, and that industry continued posting gains in July.
Steven Haas, owner of the City Hall restaurant near downtown Miami, said hes enjoying a busy summer and that bookings for holiday parties are ahead of last years pace. But he also sees customers watching their dollars.
People with money are taking advantage of Miami Spice, he said of the annual August promotion where restaurants offer special prix fixe menus. People are paying attention to what theyre spending.