South Florida’s job scene continues to brighten.
The jobless rate in greater Miami inched down to 7.2 percent, seasonally adjusted, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That compared with 7.4 percent in May and 8.5 percent in June 2013.
The gradual improvement in unemployment came as the private sector — from construction companies to healthcare businesses — continued to add jobs at a steady pace, offsetting softness in government jobs.
“Payroll in the private sector grew 3.8 percent for Miami-Dade. That’s pretty good,’’ said Robert Cruz, chief economist for Miami-Dade County. “Since the summer of 2013, we’ve seen the pace of [job] growth accelerate, which is very good news.”
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While unemployment in Miami-Dade remains relatively high, it’s a far cry from its Great Recession peak of 11.8 percent in the dark days of October 2009.
In greater Fort Lauderdale, unemployment in June was 5.3 percent, a seasonally unadjusted measure down 1.1 percentage points from a year earlier, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
In Miami, the pickup in construction is starting to inject life into that long moribund sector. Payroll employment in construction in Miami-Dade rose 9 percent year over year, state data show. That includes high-level construction jobs opening up.
“We’re hiring two to four people every month on a managerial level, and I see it continuing,” said John Leete, executive vice president at John Moriarty & Associates, a general contractor and construction management firm with offices in Hollywood.
“We’re definitely in hiring mode,” said Mike Neal, CEO of Kast Construction, a commercial general contractor based in West Palm Beach. “At the corporate level, our headcount increased at least 25 percent over the past 18 months.” The firm now has 125 salaried employees.
“It doesn’t look like it’s slowing down,” Neal said. “There is a great demand for our services. It’s a great problem to have. Finding top talent is hard, those A players.”
Currently, there is a bit of a shortage to meet the company’s needs, he said.
“There are 40 or 50 subs [subcontractors] on every project, and they’re all in the same boat. There is huge pent-up demand for skilled workers. A lot left Florida during the big recession,” Neal said.
Most other sectors are also expanding their payrolls in varying degrees. Jobs in leisure and hospitality grew in June by 4.2 percent year over year in greater Miami and 4.1 percent in metro Fort Lauderdale, state data show.
In Miami, the important healthcare sector added jobs. “We are in a massive growth mode,” said David Schubert, assistant vice president of talent acquisition and employee development at Baptist Health South Florida, which is expanding its primary care hub and spoke network with one-stop shops. “It’s been full speed ahead growth mode for the last nine months.’’
Experienced registered nurses, patient financial representatives, registration staff and secretaries are all in high demand, Schubert said. “We do advertise and source applicants from across the country.”
For Florida, the unemployment rate for June was 6.2 percent seasonally adjusted, down 0.1 percentage points from the May 2014 rate and 1.2 percentage points from the June 2013 rate of 7.4 percent, the state reported.
Florida added 36,900 private-sector jobs in June. The state had 597,000 jobless workers out of a labor force of 9,626,000.
Twenty of the 22 metro areas tracked by the state registered job gains in June.
The greater Miami area added 29,600 jobs, a 2.8 percent increase, the second-biggest gain among metro areas in the state behind Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, which added 39,100 jobs, a 3.7 percent increase.
“It’s been a pretty good first half of 2014 as far as the labor market,’’ said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness. “That momentum is likely to continue in the second half.”
A healthy sign is that the drop in the unemployment rate is coming even as the labor force grows, Snaith said. “People are getting back into the job search instead of giving up and dropping out.’’
June marked the first time in more than a year that Florida’s jobless rate exceeded the national rate.
“The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.1 percent in June. Prior to June, Florida’s unemployment rate had been less than or equal to the national rate for 13 consecutive months,” the state agency said.