A shrinking labor pool masks weak employment numbers in Miami and the U.S.

In Miami-Dade, and across the country, a lack of job applicants makes the employment picture look better than reality.

On Friday, the August jobs report disappointed on all fronts, with fewer than 170,000 jobs produced at a time when economists expected to see at least 180,000 new payroll positions. And while the unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 7.3 percent, the decline came thanks to about 300,000 fewer people looking for work. If the labor force hadn’t contracted, the U.S. unemployment rate would still be at 7.4 percent.

A similar trend is playing out in Miami-Dade, where unemployment stands at 8.8 percent but would be 9.3 percent if the labor force hadn’t declined for the last five months. Since January, the number of employed people in Miami-Dade dropped by 19,000 people. But the labor force, which includes people who are working as well as people looking for work, dropped much faster, down 35,000 people.

Not so in Broward, where unemployment hit 5.8 percent in July thanks to growth in both employment and the labor force.

The unemployment rate technically measures the portion of people who want to work but can’t find jobs. In monthly surveys, the federal Labor Department polls households for the reasons why people aren’t working. Those who don’t want to work don’t get counted in the labor force, while those who say they want a job but don’t hold one are included in the pool.

Not everyone drops out of the labor force because they think finding a job is hopeless. Federal statistics show that in August, about 866,000 thousands people were described as “discouraged workers” while 1.4 million people cited other reasons, including illness, family obligations and transportation issues.

The Miami Herald’s Economic Time Machine seeks to give the long view on the latest financial numbers for South Florida. Visit for analysis of the numbers that drive the local economy. Our ETM index tracks more than 40 local indicators to measure where the economy has “landed” post-bust when compared to earlier economic conditions. The latest reading: August 2004.

Read more The Economic Time Machine stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category