Dade jobs picture a bit brighter

Job growth revved up a bit in October but still failed to reach the faster pace set in 2012.

Construction and local government hiring continue to be the weak spots in Florida’s largest labor market, with the building industry down 2,100 payroll positions from a year ago and the local public sector down 5,100. While home values have been on the rise this year and buyers are once again purchasing homes, the building industry remains in low gear. And lingering damage from the housing crisis has kept property-tax revenues to levels that have not eased budget pressure at the county and city levels across South Florida.

Miami-Dade added 9,000 jobs since October 2012, a relatively slow pace for a county that a year ago was creating more than 20,000 new jobs over the prior year. Still, the pace has quickened since the summer, and offered hope that Miami-Dade might shake off the hiring slump that has defined most of 2013. A survey of households determined Miami-Dade’s employment level was flat last month, but that an increase in job seekers pushed the unemployment rate from 7.8 percent in September to 8 percent in October.

Robert Cruz, Miami-Dade’s official economist, said the latest data reveals an encouraging trend. “Payroll employment in Miami-Dade returned to strong growth in October,’’ he wrote in a report released Friday evening. He noted that revisions showed stronger job growth during the summer than was previously reported.

But Chris Lafakis, a Moody’s economist, didn’t see much encouraging in the latest data.

“My sense is that the Miami economy is sluggish right now, and it won’t get going until the housing market rebounds,” he said. “We expect that to happen in 2014.”

A rebound in construction hiring helped Broward continue to follow a more promising tack in 2013. Construction added 1,000 jobs compared to a year ago, adding to the 19,000 payroll slots that Broward employers created in October. The new jobs helped drop the unemployment rate from 5.6 percent in September to 5.3 percent in October. But while Miami-Dade is large enough to receive a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from the federal statisticians behind the monthly labor report, Broward only receives a raw rate.

The Miami-Dade numbers weren’t all bad. A more erratic measure of monthly job growth showed a gain of 3,700 payroll positions since September. The same federal estimates have Broward losing about 2,500 payroll positions from September. Both payroll counts are adjusted for seasonal changes in the economy, but can show swings month to month. The raw year-over-year payroll count has reported more stable trends in the local job markets during the recession and recovery.

Statewide, Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate inched down from 6.8 percent in September to 6.7 percent in October. The decline came thanks to a slight increase in employment along with a slight decline in job seekers. Still, payroll growth looked strong. The state added 182,000 payroll positions, and the 2.5 percent job growth was the strongest since June 2006.

The jobs report included September figures, which were delayed because of the partial shutdown of the federal government in October.

Sue Romanos, who runs a large temporary-staffing firm with offices in Broward and Miami-Dade, said she’s seen a slowdown in hiring from companies. She pointed to one retail client in particular that has cut back on the number of temporary workers it needs for the upcoming holiday season. Romanos said the controversies surrounding the Affordable Care Act has added to questions employers have about their prospects for 2014.

“There is a lot of uncertainty out there right now,” said Romanos, president of CareerXchange.