Jobs growing in South Florida

03/29/2013 11:17 AM

03/29/2013 7:23 PM

Job growth continues in South Florida, despite thinned-out payrolls in local government that now serve as the main anchor to a full hiring recovery.

The February employment report generally brought good news statewide, as a recovery that once seemed at risk of stalling has appeared to regain steam. Broward and Miami-Dade counties added about 27,000 positions to payrolls. The job growth reinforced a trend set in January, when a strong employment report suggested 2013 was on track to accelerate a rebound that has been tepidly underway since 2010.

“This is another step forward in this recovery,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida. “Not a giant step forward, but it’s progress.”

But there were also signs of concern, particularly in Miami-Dade’s report. Unemployment is on the rise again, leaping from 9.3 percent in January to 9.7 percent in February, the highest in 12 months. The numbers are seasonally adjusted, and considered a reliable barometer of month-to-month changes in hiring.

Part of the reason behind the spike looks encouraging: Miami-Dade has about 7,000 more job seekers in February than it did in January. That’s generally a positive trend because it shows optimism toward hiring conditions. But the same survey of households found only a tiny uptick in people describing themselves as employed: up less than 1,000 in Miami-Dade.

Statewide, unemployment inched down to 7.7 percent from a revised 7.9 percent in January. Both employment and the labor force grew in Florida. Broward receives only raw unemployment numbers, and its jobless rate went from 6.7 percent to 6.2 percent. That’s the lowest since October 2008.

The February report comes just two weeks after the release of January’s numbers — a once-a-year reprise brought on by statistical revisions that delay the normal stream of employment data.

The big news from January’s revision is a string of monthly losses in construction hiring had been changed to gains. The encouraging trend barely continued in February, with Broward showing a gain of 4,100 construction jobs and Miami-Dade showing no losses but no gains as well in the building sector.

Local government was another story. Broward showed a modest gain of 700 positions. But Miami-Dade continued a streak of severe losses in government payrolls, with the local sector shedding 5,400 positions from a year ago.

Snaith said the losing trend would eventually taper off as rising property values continue to bolster local-government coffers. “We’re starting to see some life there,” he said. “It just takes time for those appraisal values to translate into budgetary dollars to spend.”

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