The unemployment rate dropped in Miami-Dade County last month as the economy kept growing — but underlying trends behind the statistics suggest that jobless numbers won’t fall much further.
Miami-Dade’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent in July, according to preliminary numbers released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. That’s down from 6.3 percent in June and 6.7 percent in July 2014.
In Broward, the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 5.2 percent in July, compared to 5.1 percent in June. That’s still good progress from July 2014, when the rate stood at 6.3 percent. Broward’s unemployment rate is not adjusted to account for seasonal changes in the labor market and is therefore not considered a reliable month-to-month economic indicator.
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Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent, down from 5.6 percent in June and 6 percent in July 2014.
In the best circumstances, the unemployment rate drops because the number of people looking for work who can’t find it — the official definition of unemployment — goes down.
That did happen last month in Miami-Dade: the number of unemployed people fell from about 82,000 in June to about 79,000 in July.
But the number of people with jobs fell, too, dropping slightly to about 1.22 million.
“When you have a decrease in both the labor force and the number of unemployed people, it exaggerates the decline in the unemployment rate,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.
The civilian labor force in Miami-Dade has now shrunk for six straight months, the first time it’s gone down consistently since 2009.
Snaith said the drop in the labor force may be driven by Florida’s older demographic. As more workers retire, the labor force will decline. He said it’s also possible that workers discouraged by the recession are dropping out of the job market after not being able to find work with good enough pay.
A drop in the labor force could make a tight labor market even tighter, giving workers more options but driving up costs for businesses.
Even so, Snaith said July was a good month for the local economy.
Year-over-year, Miami-Dade created 27,000 jobs, the third most in the state after Orlando and Tampa.
“We’re seeing solid job growth, and the housing market is doing well but not overheating,” Snaith said. “We’re not going to see unemployment at 3.3 percent like it was during the housing bubble. But that wasn’t a real phenomenon.”
The national unemployment rate was unchanged in July at 5.3 percent. It stood at 6.2 percent at the same point last year.
Mekael Teshome, an analyst at PNC Bank, said Florida’s economy was generally outpacing the nation’s.
“We saw another good month with construction and consumer spending leading gains,” Teshome said.
The industries that made the biggest gains in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach were tourism, construction, healthcare and the category that includes lawyers, accountants and other white-collar workers. Only government lost jobs.
Monroe County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 3.9 percent.
The new jobless figures come a day after Gov. Rick Scott blasted state legislators for cutting funds used to attract companies to Florida, the Associated Press reported.
Scott had asked for $85 million for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency that doles out incentives to companies relocating to the Sunshine State. But in its latest budget the legislature granted the agency about half of that.
“We will not able to get deals done going forward,” Scott said, according to the AP.