Unemployment rate stalls as summer hiring crawls in South Florida

South Florida’s hiring market has little to celebrate this summer.

June employment numbers released Friday morning show negative trends continued weighing down hiring in the region. The shift to robust growth that some analysts expected by now still hasn’t materialized as consumers and businesses pull back from earlier confidence.

“It’s a side effect of the broader cool down we’re seeing nationally,’’ PNC economist Mekael Teshome said of the weak numbers out of Florida. “This is a hiccup. I think we’re still in a modest and persistent recovery.”

The rest of the summer will prove him right or wrong, as both Broward and Miami-Dade flirt with a reversal of what looked like a strong recovery as 2012 began. Broward saw its second consecutive month of job losses after nearly two years of growth. Miami-Dade businesses continued adding jobs, but at the slowest pace since October.

Unemployment held steady in Miami-Dade at 9.5 percent, but that was thanks to a decline in the number of people looking for work. Broward saw its unemployment rate spike from 7.3 percent to 7.7 percent, but that’s an initial reading before Broward and the rest of Florida’s smaller metropolitan areas receive their seasonally adjusted rates later in the month.

In Florida, unemployment held steady at 8.6 percent, though the state did report an increase of 66,000 jobs during the last 12 months. That’s slower than the 80,000 and 90,000 jobs being added at the start of 2012, but still better than April and May.

“I didn’t see anything to cheer about,’’ Robert Cruz, chief economist for Miami-Dade, said of the June report. “Or to get depressed about, either.”

Behind the statistics, the broader picture remains clear: No major improvement in one of the worst hiring markets South Florida has ever faced.

Teresa Rio lost a string of government and non-profit jobs to layoffs and cut funding in recent years. Unemployed since December, she estimates she applies for at least five jobs a week, and sometimes as many as 15. To date, she has been granted three interviews and received no offers.

“It’s depressing,’’ said the 64-year-old former administrator in Florida’s social services agencies. “You feel old. You feel worthless. You feel like a spare part.”

Government cutbacks and a depressed housing market continue to hold back South Florida’s hiring rebound. Construction and local government combined accounted for 75 percent of the jobs lost in Miami-Dade during the last 12 months. In Broward, construction accounts for about half of the lost jobs, though retail and the wholesale industry lost roughly the same amount of jobs in June as local governments did.

In Broward, job gains and losses washed each other out and the county ended June with 400 fewer payroll positions than in June 2011.Broward’s healthcare and finance industries posted modest gains in June, as did manufacturing. The payroll numbers and unemployment rates don’t always follow the same track, since payroll numbers come from a government survey of businesses and the employment numbers come from a survey of households.

June’s small payroll drop follows a loss of 1,600 jobs in Broward during May. The last time Broward went from job growth to job losses was in December 2007, which economists later determined was the start of a 19-month national recession..

Growing industries in Miami-Dade more than compensated for payroll reductions in construction and other shrinking industries. Overall, employers added about 11,000 payroll positions compared to June 2011. Hiring in healthcare continues to outpace other Miami-Dade industries, followed closely by retail.

Jeffrey McIver supervises hiring for Wal-Mart across Florida, and said the stores have been adding jobs in Miami-Dade throughout the year. The applicants reflect the strains of the economy.

“We’ve had a lot of people from the education arena. We’ve got people with banking experience,’’ McIver said of recent hires. “We’ve had construction workers.”