As odd as it sounds, South Florida has generally been able to find good news in the monthly unemployment claims.
The number remains high — more than 14,000 people in Broward and Miami-Dade signed up for their first unemployment checks in December. But each month, the number has been lower than it was the previous year, signaling that the labor market at least wasn’t getting any worse.
But the winter ended that trend for Miami-Dade County.
First-time unemployment claims, the paperwork people file for their first unemployment checks, have been growing for the last two months in Miami-Dade. Compared to the prior year, claims are up 17 percent during that 60-day period compared to the combined total of November and December in 2011. That’s not true in Broward, where claims dropped 2 percent during the same period.
The Miami-Dade numbers buck a long-running trend of the first-time claims dropping each month. Since January 2010, the three-month average of monthly claims has dropped every time in both Broward and Miami-Dade. Now Miami-Dade has broken the streak, with a 4 percent increase in the 90-day average.
What’s going on? We could just be seeing a leveling off of an otherwise encouraging trend. How many times can you see big drops in a number that has already dropped significantly in the past two years?
South Florida’s unemployment rate continues to drop. Even adjusted for seasonality, Broward’s November unemployment rate of 7 percent is well below the 8.5 percent recorded at the start of 2012. Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate of 8.4 percent is the lowest since November 2008 and a big drop from the 10.3 percent rate from January.
Still, the spike in Miami-Dade’s unemployment claims could be a sign that South Florida’s spotty hiring recovery has hit a rough patch. Local unemployment claims come out before the monthly unemployment report, which is due Friday, Jan. 18.
The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine blog tracks South Florida’s recovery from the Great Recession. By putting the latest economic statistics in a historical context, the ETM tries to provide perspective on both the damage done and the pace of the recovery. Visit miamiherald.com/economic-time-machine for updates.