Miami-Dade’s 5.9% unemployment rate is lowest since 2008

College students wait in line at a job fair held at Marlins Park in 2013.
College students wait in line at a job fair held at Marlins Park in 2013. AP

In February, Miami-Dade County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped below 6 percent for the first time since 2008.

February’s preliminary jobless rate was 5.9 percent, compared to 6.1 percent in January and 7.3 percent in February 2014, according to a report released Friday by the state.

The report was a positive sign for the county as it continues to recover from the recession.

“These are good numbers for us,” said Robert Cruz, department chair at the School of Business at the Miami Dade College Kendall campus and former chief economist for the county. “Our economy has been doing well for quite some time now.”

The Miami metro region added about 36,500 non-agricultural jobs year-over-year, the second-most growth in the state after the Orlando area.

The county’s labor force went down slightly, falling from about 1,330,000 workers in January to 1,329,000 last month.

But the number of people with jobs inched up to 1.25 million while the number of unemployed — defined as those who are looking for work but can’t find it — declined by more than 2,800 people to about 78,300.

“The unemployment rate is not going down because people are leaving the labor force,” Cruz said. “It’s because the number of jobs is going up. That’s a solid improvement.”

Cruz said he expects growth should stay strong over the next six months.

“After that, there are some potential dark clouds on the horizon, including uncertainty in the Latin American and European economies,” Cruz said.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also went down in February, falling to 5.6 percent, down from 5.7 percent in January and 6.5 percent a year ago. The national jobless rate for February was 5.5 percent.

Broward County’s unemployment rate for February was 5.2 percent, compared to 6.1 percent at the same time last year.

Unlike Miami-Dade, Broward’s rate is not adjusted to account for seasonal changes in the labor force.

The state will release finalized finalized numbers for February in mid-April.

As in previous months, much of the job growth in South Florida came in the fields of construction, leisure and hospitality, education and healthcare, and the category that includes legal services, accountants, engineers and other highly educated professionals.

Edmundo Hoffens, chief human resources officer at Sabadell United Bank, said the improving job market could be a double-edged sword for employers.

“There’s definitely more competition to attract the best talent these days,” Hoffens said. “That means we have to work harder and be more creative to land the top candidates.”

Hoffens said the bank had created a net of 60 jobs last year and expected to create 40 more net positions in 2015.

Also notable: for the first time in several months, government employment grew year-over-year, increasing by .3 percent in February. (Public school teachers are not counted as government workers in the report.)

Miami-Dade’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in February. Putnam (8.2 percent), Citrus (7.9 percent) and Hendry (7.8 percent) counties had the highest rates in the state.

Monroe County had Florida’s lowest rate at 3.9 percent.