Miami-Dade’s jobs picture improves, still lags behind Broward and Florida

Job seekers line-up during a job fair in downtown Miami. Miami.
Job seekers line-up during a job fair in downtown Miami. Miami.

Miami-Dade’s economic engine kept humming along in May, extending a trend of steady job growth that began in January. But the county still lags Broward and the rest of Florida.

Unemployment in Miami-Dade, meanwhile, continued to drop, according to a monthly report released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The county’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate hit 5 percent in May, an improvement over April’s rate of 5.2 percent and the 5.3 percent unemployment rate a year ago in May 2016.

The state’s jobs performance continues to outstrip Miami-Dade’s, however. Florida’s jobless rate dropped to 4.3 percent in May from 4.5 percent the previous month. That puts the state on an even keel with the country as a whole. The U.S. jobless rate in May was also 4.3 percent, a slight improvement over April’s rate of 4.4 percent.

“The overarching story is Florida’s economic expansion is robust,” said Mekael Teshome, Florida analyst for PNC Bank. “In a sense, we’re on cruise control.”

Broward’s unemployment rate of 3.8 percent saw no change from April after scoring a significant improvement the month before. Broward, which has enjoyed a stellar economic run over several months, had a jobless rate of 4.3 percent a year ago. Broward’s numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

Monroe County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.7 percent.

One good sign for the state in the report: the rate of job growth is healthy enough that the unemployment rate keeps dropping even as the labor force grows, noted Sean Snaith, a professor at the University of Central Florida who closely follows Florida’s economy.

“That’s the holy trinity of economic growth right there,” Snaith said.

Statewide, job growth was especially strong in two areas, Teshome said. The professional and tech services sector added 6,500 jobs in May, while transportation added 2,500 jobs.

In Miami-Dade, employment growth was driven by construction, which added 3,600 jobs in May, and professional and business services, which grew by 2,700 jobs. But other sectors lost jobs, notably including leisure and hospitality, which dropped by 900 jobs, partially offsetting the strong gains elsewhere. The Zika crisis has been blamed for a drop in tourism.

Teshome said job growth in Miami-Dade is also constrained by several factors, especially in comparison to Broward.

Broward has a larger population growth that’s due to people moving there from other places within the United States, he said. That’s led to labor force growth and an increase in an aggregate demand for goods and services, fueling economic expansion.

Miami-Dade, by contrast, has slower population growth and is vulnerable to continued weakness or volatility in Latin American economies becauses of its close trade and economic ties to the region, Teshome said. In addition, it’s somewhat costlier to do business in Miami-Dade and in Broward.

But, he added, he expects the job picture to continue improving in both counties in tandem with the state.

“Comparatively speaking, Broward is moving much faster than Miami-Dade, but my expectation is the regional trend will follow the state trend,” he said.