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Miami-Dade’s economy is growing more slowly than the rest of the state

In this Tuesday, July 19, 2016, file photo, a job applicant attends a job fair in Miami Lakes.
In this Tuesday, July 19, 2016, file photo, a job applicant attends a job fair in Miami Lakes. AP

A trend that began in 2016 shows no sign of stopping: Miami-Dade County’s economy is growing significantly more slowly than other big employment centers in Florida.

Miami-Dade added 18,000 jobs between November 2015 and November 2016, an annual growth rate of 1.6 percent, according to state employment figures released Friday. Compare that to 53,100 new jobs in the Orlando area (up 4.5 percent annually), 33,400 in Tampa (up 2.6 percent), 30,700 in Fort Lauderdale (3.8 percent) and 23,700 in Jacksonville (up 3.6 percent.) The state as a whole grew at a 3.2 percent clip over the last year.

The likely culprits? Recession in Latin America and the Zika scare. It’s also possible that Miami-Dade, which recovered from the recession faster than other areas, is simply leveling off after years of growth, experts say. The 1.16 million payroll jobs recorded Friday are a historical high, according to the Beacon Council, the county’s economic development arm.

“Our target industries including banking and finance (financial activities) and trade and logistics (wholesale trade) continue to grow, providing higher paying jobs,” Jaap Donath, senior vice president at the Beacon Council, said in a statement.

There is potential for more growth.

Investment from Latin America is a key driver for Miami-Dade. But a strong dollar is hurting the flow of foreign money into the county, especially for the crucial real estate sector.

That drag is going to linger into 2017.

Sean Snaith, economist

“The Miami economy’s ties to Central and South America have historically provided a boost to the region’s economy, but in recent times it’s become more of an albatross around the neck,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida. “That drag is going to linger into 2017.”

Miami Beach’s hotels have also taken a hit as domestic visitors reacted to the Zika outbreak, now officially over.

The state report also includes new information about unemployment.

In Miami-Dade, the unemployment rate inched up to 5.4 percent in November, up from 5.3 percent in October but significantly better than November 2015’s rate of 6.1 percent. The number of unemployed workers grew slightly, but so did the county’s labor force. That means more people are looking for work, an encouraging trend.

The county’s real estate, financial and tourism sectors provided the most job growth in November. The information technology, healthcare and government sectors grew at slower rates or even shed jobs.

5.4 percentMiami-Dade County’s November unemployment rate

Broward County’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.6 percent, unchanged from both October and November 2015.

Statewide, the unemployment ticked up to 4.9 percent in November, up from 4.8 percent in October but down from 5.1 percent in November 2015. The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 4.6 percent.

All figures except those for Broward County are adjusted to account for seasonal changes in the workforce.

As a whole, Florida’s economy is performing well. The state is creating jobs at twice the pace of the nation. A strong stock market bodes well for the United States, but rising interest rates at home and economic struggles abroad could spell trouble for the global climate. A Reuters poll of more than 500 financial analysts found they generally predict growth in 2017 to be “uneven and unspectacular.”

Latin America will again have a big impact on the local economy in 2017. Last year, gross domestic product in Latin America and the Caribbean contracted 1.1 percent, according to a report by a United Nations agency. In 2017, the U.N. expects growth to resume but cautioned that much of the gains will be made in Central America and the Caribbean, not South America.

“I think there’s going to be a moderate improvement in Latin America,” said economist Manuel Lasaga, who teaches international finance at Florida International University. “Some of these economies have touched bottom and are ready to bounce back. … Many people in Latin America are expecting to see the type of growth they did before 2008 and there is going to be more pressure on the governments to spend and create jobs.”

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