Job growth is up while unemployment falls in Florida, South Florida

Florida analyst for PNC Bank discusses jobs report

Mekael Teshome, PNC Bank Florida Economist, discusses the jobs report on May 19, 2017.
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Mekael Teshome, PNC Bank Florida Economist, discusses the jobs report on May 19, 2017.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties continue to churn out jobs, while unemployment ticked down, following the trend of other Florida metro areas and the state as a whole.

As job growth continued, although at a slower pace, in Miami-Dade, the county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell slightly to 5.2 percent in April, down from 5.3 percent in March and 5.3 percent in April 2016, according to a monthly report released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. But the jobless rate remains above that of most of the state and the nation.

Broward County saw a more significant decrease. Its jobless rate fell to 3.8 percent, a new low since the recession and down from 4.1 percent in March and 4.4 percent in April 2016. Broward’s rate is not adjusted seasonally.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to 4.5 percent, down from 4.8 percent in March and 4.9 percent in April 2016. The U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 4.4 percent, down from 4.5 percent in March and 5 percent in April 2016. In coming months, the drop in the state’s unemployment rate could push wages up.

“The big takeaway is the job market is continuing to tighten. We had a good increase in the number of jobs created as well as in the workforce, which is a sign there is momentum and confidence in Florida’s economy,” said Mekael Teshome, Florida analyst for PNC Bank, adding that the three-tenths of a point one-month drop in Florida’s unemployment rate is noteworthy. “What we are really looking forward to is that, with this continued decline in the unemployment rate, eventually we will get a pickup in wage growth.”

The Zika crisis, economic challenges in Latin America and the global economy and slower population growth have all contributed to slowing economic growth in Miami-Dade in recent months. “But the direction is still good, and in Miami-Dade it might take more time to see the uptick in wages that we are looking for,” Teshome said.

In April, Florida created new non-agricultural jobs at a 2.6 percent clip year over year, down from 3 percent last month. Jobs were created at a rate of 1.6 percent in Miami-Dade, matching the national rate, but slowing since last month’s 2 percent rate of growth. All of the state’s other largest metro areas grew at faster rates, led by the 3.6 percent in Orlando, 3.2 percent in Broward, 2.9 percent in the Jacksonville region and 2.6 percent in the Tampa Bay area. Statewide, job growth has exceeded the national growth since 2012.

In a Friday afternoon appearance at LATAM Airlines in Miami, Gov. Rick Scott cautioned that the state needs to continue competing with other states for jobs. He said part of that battle is restoring funding to state economic development agency Enterprise Florida and state marketing arm Visit Florida, which both saw their budgets slashed by the legislature this session.

Scott has hinted that he plans to veto part or all of the state budget but didn't give any indication Friday as to whether he had made a decision.

“If we don't support Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida we are not going to be seeing so many jobs,” Scott said. “The rate of growth is slowing down whether you look at construction job growth rate, whether you look at hospitality, it's starting to slow down and even our overall job growth numbers are not growing as fast as they were a year ago.”

Job growth in South Florida was driven in April by gains in construction, education, healthcare, and the professional services category of workers that includes lawyers, accountants, architects and advertisers.

For the metropolitan area, hospitality grew at a moderate 2.5 percent yet retail and trade grew at slower rates, all categories powering South Florida’s service economy. Still, not all sectors showed job growth. The relatively small information sector, which includes technology and media and is a category with high-paying jobs, lost 300 jobs or 0.6 percent year over year, while the much larger finance and insurance sector lost 1,400, or 1.2 percent, of jobs.

“We’re encouraged as we continue to see year-over-year job growth across sectors,” said Jaap Donath, senior vice president of Research & Strategic Planning for the Beacon Council. “And we’re pleased to see the Miami metro area ranked No. 1 in startup activity in the U.S., according to Kauffman Foundation’s 2017 index. While we are pleased that our unemployment rate is descending, unemployment figures may not take into account our economic vitality as it relates to startups and the contractors and service providers that they employ.”

Herald staff writer Chabeli Herrera contributed to this report

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg