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Miami-Dade again flirting with double-digit unemployment

Miami-Dade’s hiring rebound continues to shift into a slower gear.

March saw Florida’s largest county flirting with 10 percent unemployment for the first time since the end of 2011. Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate hit 9.9 percent, the highest since November 2011 and up from 9.8 percent in February.

And while Miami-Dade employers are adding jobs, the 10,500 new payroll slots reported in March represents about half the job growth seen last summer. In fact, it was the smallest number of jobs added by Miami-Dade since October 2010, according to figures from Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Disappointing,’’ was how Robert Cruz, Miami-Dade County’s chief economist, described the report released Friday morning. The county’s economic development agency, the Beacon Council, had more encouraging words to say but acknowledged these aren’t the kind of hiring numbers that comes from an economy in full recovery mode.

“At least we’re continuing to grow jobs,’’ said Jaap Donath, the agency’s economist. “Hopefully we’ll see better months ahead.”

Miami-Dade’s weak jobs report came the same day as the release of healthier numbers statewide, including in Broward. Florida saw its unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent from a revised 7.8 percent in February. In Broward, employers added more jobs than in Miami-Dade, where the workforce is about 25 percent larger.

The 14,500 jobs Broward added in March matched the average job growth during the last two years, with expansion in almost every major industry except for professional services and government. Broward’s raw unemployment rate plunged to 5.7 percent from February’s 6.2 percent, though some of the drop may have come from the tourism industry getting busier in March.

Both Florida and Miami-Dade receive seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, so they’re considered more reliable barometers of the hiring landscape. Broward and the state’s other counties receive raw unemployment rates.

The slower job growth in Miami-Dade comes as a number of industries report fewer new hires than they did in late 2012, including healthcare, hospitality and the cargo industry. Construction hiring is flat, with only 500 new positions reported despite developers launching new projects and housing sales growing.

Local government continues having dramatically leaner payrolls in 2013, with that sector down 5,400 positions from a year ago. That easily makes local government the largest anchor to employment growth in Miami-Dade. At the same time, the federal surveys of households found Miami-Dade’s labor force has hit an all-time high of 1.3 million people who are either working on seeking a job. That “suggests there hasn’t been permanent damage to the Miami economy from the recession,’’ said Chris Lafakis, a Moody’s economist who follows South Florida.

Lafakis said Miami-Dade has gone from an above-average performer on Florida’s hiring scene to one of the state’s weaker performers. “Miami’s recovery is having fits and starts, for sure,’’ he said.

Ann Machado, president of Creative Staffing, which provides temporary workers to companies in Broward and Miami-Dade, said 2013 has been and up-and-down year. But she said March has been fallen into the “up” category. “We’re seeing job orders. People are getting hired,’’ she said. “But it’s been bumpy.”