Miami-Dade County’s economy had a solid month in July, despite continuing troubles in Latin America.
The local unemployment rate slipped to 5.2 percent in July, down from 5.3 percent in June and 6 percent in July 2015, according to monthly state figures released Friday.
And unlike previous reports this year, July’s numbers showed strong fundamentals: The number of people working rose by more than 2,900 in July. It had fallen every month since February, a sign that some workers were giving up on finding a job in 2016.
5.2 percent Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate in July
The unemployment rate doesn’t count people who’ve stopped hunting for work. If frustrated job seekers drop out of the labor force, the unemployment rate falls even though fewer people are working. That artificial decline in the unemployment rate can mask deeper economic woes.
July’s increase in the job force indicates that the county is on a strong footing. “When workers begin to have more confidence that there are jobs out there, it’s a good sign,” said Robert Cruz, chief economist for fiscal watchdog group Florida Tax Watch and former chief economist for Miami-Dade County. “But it’s only one month. If we can do that three months in a row, that would be fantastic.”
Cruz said he expects moderate job growth for South Florida during the rest of the year.
“We are seeing good numbers at the national level, even if it’s been a little back-and-forth,” he said. “If the U.S. economy is gathering up more steam, that’s going to help Miami-Dade and Florida as well.”
The unemployment rate only counts people who are looking for a job, not those who have given up.
Miami-Dade’s growth has been held back by crises in important Latin American economies this year. In late July, a senior official at the International Monetary Fund predicted an average annual contraction of 0.4 percent in gross domestic product for Latin America. Most of the slowdown was due to struggles in Brazil and Venezuela.
The construction industry showed strength in Miami-Dade in July, as did trade and financial services.
But Zika could be one potential drag on the county’s crucial leisure and hospitality industries, said Manuel Lasaga of economic consultancy StratInfo.
In Broward County, which is less dependent on Latin America, the unemployment rate nudged up from 4.6 percent in June to 4.7 percent in July. That’s no cause for concern. Unlike Miami-Dade, Broward’s numbers are not adjusted to account for seasonal changes in the workforce. Year over year, the unemployment rate in Broward fell from 5.4 percent in July 2015.
Florida’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent in July, down from 5.2 percent a year ago.
The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 4.9 percent.
The areas in the state that gained the most jobs year over year were Orlando (47,400), Tampa (37,700), Fort Lauderdale (36,000), Jacksonville (22,900) and Miami (20,700).