By one measure, Miami-Dade County hit a new employment record in March, bringing its total number of jobs to a record 1.12 million.
But beneath the pure numbers was a monthly blip in the recovery. When adjusted for seasonal changes, the county actually lost jobs in March, according to a monthly state report released Friday.
As a result, the county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate bumped up slightly from February, clocking in at 6.0 percent in March versus 5.9 percent during the previous month.
Broward County fared better, seeing its rate drop to 5.1 percent in March, down from 5.3 percent the previous month. Unlike Miami-Dade, Broward’s rate is not seasonally adjusted and is not considered as reliable a monthly barometer of the economy.
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But there’s no reason for concern in Miami, experts said.
“We’re going to have month-to-month volatility, but overall the trend has been positive,” said Mekael Teshome, an analyst at PNC Bank who covers Florida’s economy. “The overall story we see is major economic drivers powering South Florida’s economy forward,” including new residents moving in, more tourists visiting, high consumer spending and plenty of new construction.
Teshome said he expected those trends to continue in 2015, leading to a strong year for the local economy. He called the monthly report “statistical noise.”
In the last year, the greater Miami area added 42,300 new jobs, the second most in Florida after Orlando. That brought its total employment to a new record. But that total is not adjusted to smooth out seasonal changes in the labor market, such as Miami’s heavy winter season for tourism when more people are able to find work.
So while the county set an annual record, the monthly numbers — which are seasonally adjusted for Miami — told a different story.
They showed that the county actually shed about 4,000 jobs in March. Only a drop in the number of people looking for work kept the unemployment rate relatively stable.
But South Florida is in a much better position than it was last year. Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate is down by 1.3 percentage points, compared to March 2014. Broward’s rate fell one percentage point over the same time.
As in past months, the fields that drove job growth in South Florida were construction, tourism and white-collar office work.
“We’re seeing broad-based growth across sectors,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.
Snaith pointed out that Florida’s economy, which added 30,600 jobs in March, is growing at a faster clip than the national economy.
The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from the previous month, holding steady at 5.7 percent. National numbers also stayed put at 5.5 percent.
The unemployment rate measures the number of people who are looking for work but can’t find it, and does not include those who have dropped out of the job hunt altogether.
The March numbers are preliminary and could be adjusted up or down by the next report, which comes out in May.
“While our recovery is clearly on the right path, I wouldn’t say it’s complete at this point,” Snaith said. “Florida still has a fair amount of underemployed workers and people that need to re-enter the labor market.”
One of those is William Bachich, 54, who was laid off from his job as a quality control manager last year. He’s been consulting ever since, and freelance illustration on the side, but he’s eager for the benefits and stability of a full-time job.
At a job fair in Miami Lakes earlier this week, Bachich said he’s noticed companies have more openings lately.
“The opportunities are there, but it’s a lot of contract and part-time work,” he said. “There aren’t as many full-time jobs.”
About 1,000 people attended the four-hour job fair at Shula’s Hotel & Golf Resort in Miami Lakes on Wednesday. At a similar event in January, more than 5,000 job seekers showed up, said Tiffany Price of fair organizer JobNewsUSA.com, a sign of the improving economy.
But some employers, particularly in construction and heavy trades, are having trouble finding workers with the right skill set.
There are about 30,000 fewer specialty trade contractors in South Florida than there were at the peak of the building boom, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many of those workers left the state during the crash or moved into a different career, hindering the efforts of companies now trying to ride the wave of South Florida’s latest construction boom.
“Now that the economy’s coming back, there’s a serious shortage of skilled labor,” said Joanne Stewart, marketing director for Melbourne-based Coastal Mechanical Services, as she manned a booth at the job fair. Stewart said the company had never needed to attend job fairs to attract workers in the past.
“Everyone told the young people to go to college, not trade school,” Steward said. “Now those college kids are a dime-a-dozen and we can’t find skilled workers.”