Florida leads nation in new job creation

WorkForce One staffer Rose Capote-Marcus works with a client, Pen Osuji, as he works on job applications at an unemployment office in Hollywood in 2012.
WorkForce One staffer Rose Capote-Marcus works with a client, Pen Osuji, as he works on job applications at an unemployment office in Hollywood in 2012.
J. Pat Cater / AP Photo

Miami-Dade and Broward counties each created 5,000 jobs in March, contributing to Florida’s nation-leading total of 22,900 new jobs, according to government data released Friday.

But more people are looking for jobs, which contributed to Miami-Dade’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate ticking up to 7.3 percent last month from 7.0 percent in February. Statewide, Florida’s unemployment rate increased to 6.3 percent from 6.2 percent in February. The number of unemployed people in Florida increased by 17,000 in March to 606,000.

The good news: Miami-Dade and Broward have added 57,900 jobs since March 2013, and the state is up 225,100 jobs from a year ago. Miami-Dade’s 32,900 newly added jobs since last March represents a 3.1 percent increase and is the second-largest gain in the state, behind Orange County (Orlando).

“Florida’s economic turnaround continued in March, with significant growth in private-sector jobs, high job demand, and an increasing employment reflecting renewed confidence among job seekers,” Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, said in a statement. “These positive trends are the result of sound economic policy in Florida.”

The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in March. Broward’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained steady at 5.5 percent (analysts revised Broward’s February rate to 5.5 percent from 5.4 percent).

In South Florida and throughout the state, the construction and hospitality-industry sectors have posted significant job gains in the past year, as have white-collar sectors like financial activities and professional and business services.

“Fundamentally, today’s report confirms the story that we’ve been telling: Florida’s economy really is firing on all cylinders now,” said Mekael Teshome, a PNC Bank economist who covers Florida. “The economic drivers for the state are clearly in recovery mode, like housing, tourism, consumer spending. In South Florida, you also have a robust global economy that is contributing to Florida’s rebound gaining steam.”

The rebound has allowed Miami’s Apollo Bank to steadily add lenders and bankers in recent years, swelling its employee ranks from 40 to 60.

Apollo president Richard Dailey said the bank’s growth mirrors that of South Florida’s economy.

“We think that growth is going to continue for us here in Miami,” he said. “Our main focus is on South Florida business lending. As we make progress, we’re better able to service the local business community.”

Florida’s 22,900 new jobs in March were less than the 34,400 private-sector jobs added in February (revised from 33,400), the biggest one-month gain since October 2010. March was the 44th consecutive month of positive job growth after the state lost jobs for three straight years.

“March’s job creation number brings more good news for Florida families,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. “This means that more than 20,000 more Floridians will be able to provide for their families. Businesses in the state are continuing to create jobs — a total of 563,900 jobs since December 2010. Our improving economy is evidence that our policies are working, and we will continue to work until every Floridian that wants a job can get a job.”

At 9.58 million people, the state’s overall labor pool also grew last month. An increase in the labor pool — people with jobs plus those seeking ones — helps explain why jobs went up but unemployment rates showed upticks, Teshome said.

“The small increase in the unemployment rate doesn’t worry me too much,” he said. “If anything, that’s an indication of an improving economy. Discouraged workers are heartened to see job gains, and they enter back into the labor force.”

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