For Jesus Rodriguez, the wait for a better hiring market has gone from worrisome to something worse.
The 55-year-old used to sell construction supplies overseas for Home Depot but said he lost that post near the depths of the downturn in 2010. Now he works part-time at a major retailer he would rather not have identified, and said the $180 he earns a week isn’t enough to keep him out of poverty. So he’s collecting food assistance from the federal government — about $60 a week to help he and his wife buy groceries.
“It’s all about survival,” Rodriguez said after leaning in to grab a flyer from a radio station looking for sales staff at a Miami Lakes job fair this week. “It’s awful.”
Friday’s employment report offered little encouragement for Rodriguez and the tens of thousands of other people in South Florida hoping for a major improvement on the hiring scene. Companies continue adding jobs but at a slower pace than a year ago. Fewer people describe themselves as employed, even as the number of people looking for work drops.
In all, the July data released by Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity showed little change in an employment landscape that is getting better but at a slow pace. Florida’s unemployment rate held steady at 7.1 percent.
A key measure of local employment health, Miami-Dade’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, posted a sharp drop from 8.8 percent in June to 8.2 percent in July. But the numbers behind the decline look discouraging.
The amount of people describing themselves as employed declined by about 8,000 but the number of people in the workforce (a combination of people working and looking for work) also dropped by about 16,000. Economists tend to see a shrinking workforce as a bad sign, since it suggests people feel the hiring climate is too hostile to even look for work. Even if employment drops, a shrinking workforce can drop the unemployment rate, which basically measures the number of people looking for work who can’t find a job.
Still, job growth numbers in the payroll survey showed progress. Miami-Dade added about 9,000 jobs, up from about 6,500 in June. That’s still well behind the more than 20,000 payroll positions Miami-Dade was adding at this time last year. Broward had a much stronger month, adding nearly 18,000 jobs despite having a smaller economy than Miami-Dade’s.
In Miami-Dade, local government — a category that includes public schools — continued to the be the number one source of lost jobs, down about 4,000 payroll positions from the year prior. The construction industry remained flat in terms of job growth in Miami-Dade, while adding about 2,500 jobs in Broward.
In Broward, the raw unemployment rate inched up slightly in July but remains far lower than it was last year. In July, unemployment hit 6.2 percent, up from 6.1 percent in June. A year ago, the rate hovered at 8 percent.
Despite qualifying for food stamps, Rodriguez would be counted as employed if he had been contacted for the federal Labor Department’s monthly survey of households. The unemployment rate discounts people working part-time, and Rodriguez said he works about 20 hours a week at his retail job. “Everything is part-time, part-time, part-time,’’ he said.