Jobs growing in South Florida, thanks to construction hiring

Job growth expanded on most fronts in South Florida last month, as the construction industry restored its role as a hiring engine and government cutbacks lessened their impact on the employment picture.

The latest employment report continued an encouraging trend for South Florida, which has come close to hitting record employment levels once again. Miami-Dade has already done it: December’s payroll count of about 1.08 million positions barely edged the prior high set in August 2007. But Broward has not yet reached past highs, leaving the region about 4,000 jobs short of the milestone moment.

While the payroll numbers look strong, unemployment continues to seem wobbly in Miami-Dade. The overall jobless rate did drop from 7.3 percent in March to 7.2 percent in April, but only because the labor pool shrunk faster than employment did. Still, the shifts were small (a loss of fewer than 2,000 people describing themselves as employed out of more than 1 million) and mostly reflected a stable employment picture.

Each month, Miami-Dade is the only Florida jurisdiction to receive a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, while Broward and the other counties receive raw rates. Without adjustments for seasonal changes in the economy, Broward’s unemployment rate plunged from 5.5 percent in March to 5.0 percent in April.

Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3 percent to 6.2 percent. That was for the “right” reasons: the labor force expanded but employment grew faster.

Payroll figures come from business surveys, while a household survey generates unemployment numbers. The trends don’t always match.

In Miami-Dade, payroll jobs were up nearly 35,000 from the prior year. While almost every employment category showed gains, the extra 3,500 construction jobs showed the most notable change from results during the region’s slow recovery.

In Broward, payroll jobs were up about 25,000 from the prior year. Construction jobs grew by 2,400.

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