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South Florida’s hiring comeback hits a setback

Shrinking government payrolls slammed hiring in South Florida last month, with Broward losing jobs overall and Miami-Dade expanding payrolls at the slowest pace in more than two years.

The anemic job-growth figures are preliminary, and could turn around in a moment if next month’s revisions find more hiring in Florida’s largest regional economy. But they also could signal the start of a new and more dismal chapter in South Florida’s slow recovery on the hiring front.

Statewide, one side of the employment picture looked positive for October. Florida’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.7 percent in September to 8.5 percent in October, even as the pool of job seekers grew. Florida’s labor pool increased by 40,000 people, but the number of people listed as employed in the monthly household survey increased at a faster rate, to 60,000 people. When both numbers are increasing, that’s generally a sign of real improvement in hiring.

The state’s labor agency said businesses and governments added almost 15,000 jobs in Florida, most of them in the private sector.

Florida’s unemployment rate is adjusted for seasonal fluctuations in the economy, so it’s considered more accurate than the raw unemployment rate, which dropped to 8.2 percent. Seasonally adjusted rates were not available for Broward or Miami-Dade. In Broward, the raw unemployment rate fell from 7.6 percent in September to 7.1 percent in October. For Miami-Dade, the raw unemployment rate inched up slightly from 8.8 percent to 8.9 percent.

Payroll counts come from a separate survey — this one of businesses, not households. Locally, those surveys showed overall hiring increased by only 800 positions in Miami-Dade. That’s paltry compared to the 24,000 jobs Miami-Dade employers were adding as recently as March and marked the worst month for hiring in Miami-Dade since June 2010. All of the losses came from the public sector, since private employers added a still-paltry 5,200 jobs from a year ago.

Broward saw a loss of 1,100 jobs over the past 12 months. Broward has not enjoyed the same kind of strong economic rebound that Miami-Dade has, and October is the second month of 2012 to show an overall decline in payroll slots in Broward. Government hiring also accounted for all of the employment losses in Broward, with the county’s private sector eking out a 700-job gain.

Combining both counties’ totals, October was the first month since June 2010 that the region lost jobs in the payroll survey. For both Broward and Miami-Dade, the bulk of the government jobs were lost at the local level. That category includes public hospitals and school systems.