A brutal job market has been surprisingly productive for Tiffany Price, who makes a living off employers who can’t find workers.
“Everyone here is struggling to find people,’’ Price said from the floor of the job fair she organized recently in West Palm Beach, where more than two-dozen companies paid about $850 each to set up hiring tables and pitch their jobs to some 3,800 attendees. “There are definitely jobs out there.”
Price’s busy days in the help-wanted industry as the sales manager at the Fort Lauderdale office for Job News USA capture both the promise and the many soft spots of South Florida’s modest hiring recovery. Employment numbers released Friday revealed slow job growth in Broward and Miami-Dade, along with signs that workers are leaving the labor force faster than employers are hiring.
Both counties’ unemployment rates did improve in August, but only because fewer people were looking for work.
Broward’s drop from 8.1 percent in July to 7.8 percent in August and Miami-Dade’s from 9.5 percent to 9.2 percent both came despite a drop in people describing themselves in government surveys as “employed.’’
In Miami-Dade, Florida’s largest local economy, the number of employed people dropped by 5,000 but the labor force itself dropped by 10,000. That allowed Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate to dip even if employment itself dropped, too.
Statewide, Florida’s jobless rate followed a similar trend: the unemployment rate stalled at 8.8 percent, but improvement came thanks to a shrinking labor force rather than a growth in employment.
A shrinking labor force often gets explained as a sign of the jobless giving up hope they can find work, and the line spilling into the parking lot for the Job News fair hardly looked encouraging for attendees.
So many job seekers arrived that Price had to play bouncer at the hotel ballroom where it was held, allowing five people inside for every 10 people who left. “We had a little complaint from the fire marshal,’’ she said.
The crush of hopefuls at the West Palm Beach Marriott reflected a job market with more than double the number of unemployed people than five years ago, in the run-up to the recession. Friday’s report recorded 196,000 people as officially unemployed in Broward and Miami-Dade, with Palm Beach County adding another 59,000.
That’s far fewer than the peak in 2010 and 2011 of about 323,000 unemployed workers for the tri-county area.
Sean Sweet counted himself in the jobless category, and found no encouragement from the 28 tables of employers renting space at the fair. The 38-year-old pharmacist lost his job at the start of the summer in a downsizing move, and now he’s volunteering his time helping with medicine at shelters for the poor. He arrived at the fair with little hope of finding a position in his field, and said he also struck out looking for an entry-level job to pay his bills.
“They look at my résumé and they say, ‘Doctorate? ‘Master’s?’ Here you go,’ ’’ Sweet said, mimicking an employer handing back his résumé. “It shows you what’s happening with the economy if you go from making $120,000 a year to nothing.’’