Unemployment claims up in South Florida


Miami-Dade continues to see a troubling increase in first-time unemployment claims. Moody’s economist: “Definitely concerning.”

The bad numbers continue for Miami-Dade’s job market.

On the heels of its worst payroll report in two years, Florida’s largest county also shows a continued increase in new unemployment claims. January brought another increase in claims over the prior year — extending the streak first started in October. In fact, it’s the first time Miami-Dade has seen four consecutive increases in the claims since December 2009.

The monthly claims numbers appear to be particularly bad for Miami-Dade. While Miami-Dade saw a 17 percent gain to nearly 11,000 claims, Broward saw a 2 percent bump to almost 7,000 and Florida saw a 5 percent decrease to 69,000. All figures compare January 2013 to January 2012 in order to smooth out seasonal fluctuations in the economy.

It’s probably a little early to declare a new trend in terms of Miami-Dade’s hiring rebound. Before the fall of 2012, unemployment claims had been dropping almost every single month since the end of 2010. So the fact that they’re on the rise again may be a sign of an increasing workforce or hitting a plateau in terms of normal churn in hiring and firing.

Nationally, the claims numbers looked good this week, with a slight decline to 366,000. A claims number under 400,000 is usually seen as a positive indicator for hiring.

Still, Miami-Dade’s claims numbers were grim enough for Chris Lafakis, a Moody’s economist following South Florida, to write the Economic Time Machine an email that said this:

“I think the jump in January is definitely concerning, especially in the context of the weak job numbers that we’ve received in Miami for the second half of 2012. Moreover, the jump isn’t so substantial that it can be dismissed as an outlier. Claims have gradually crept up. I am thinking that demographics are a big reason why Miami is faring worse than some of the other Florida metro areas.

“When released in a couple months, metro-level population data are expected to show strong population growth in Orlando and weak population growth in Miami. Miami’s weaker population growth will prevent its cyclical recovery from being as strong as those of other large Florida metro areas over the next couple years.”

Not everyone is so grim.

Karl Kuykendall, an IHS Global Insight economist who follows South Florida, said he doesn’t read too much into Miami-Dade’s monthly claims numbers, since they can be so erratic. And while December’s hiring numbers were clearly bad for Miami-Dade, he sees the loss of 3,700 payroll positions as more of a hiccup than the start of a rough trend for 2013.

Broward saw decent job growth in December, but Miami-Dade saw its first decline since June 2010. The big change came from a fall slump in hospital hiring and a drop in jobs at hospitals, a sector that had been adding jobs for almost five years.

“It’s hard not to believe that tourism will rebound in 2013,’’he said. The claims numbers are “clearly a signal that January’s report isn’t going to blow us out of the water. But I’m doubtful it will be as bad as December was.”

For now, the unemployment claims will have to be the best barometer in local hiring for 2013. Due to scheduled revisions of 2012 data, the January employment report for states and counties won’t be out until March. Ordinarily, it would come out next week.

The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine blog seeks to put South Florida’s recovery into historical perspective. We try to take the long view on economic stats. For analysis of the latest economic news, visit and look for our weekly chart on Page 3 of Business Monday.

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