South Florida unemployment picture continues improvement

South Florida’s job market continued its muscular growth, as the year-to-year unemployment rate for both Miami-Dade and Broward headed down from July 2013. The state’s July unemployment rate was down 1.1 points from 7.3 percent a year ago, though it remained unchanged from the 6.2 percent of the previous month.

Miami-Dade’s July unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) of 6.8 percent was a strong reversal from the July 2013 figure of 8.6 percent. Broward’s July rate dropped to 5.5 percent from 6.4 percent the same month a year ago, though its jobless rate grew from June to July of 2014.

Miami-Dade led the state’s 22 metro areas, adding 36,400 non-agricultural jobs. Broward came in third, with 22,800 more jobs.

“It’s very positive,” said Jaap Donath, senior vice president of research and strategic planning for the Beacon Council. “We’ve seen job growth in most every sector and we can expect that growth to continue.”

Robert Cruz, Miami-Dade’s chief economist, called the July report a confirmation of “a healthy pace of growth. There’s positive momentum in the economy.”

Year-to-year job growth was strong for most industries in Miami-Dade, with retail trade leading the way in the number of jobs added (7,200), an increase of 5.3 percent. The hard-hit construction industry grew the most year-over-year percentage wise, rising 6.9 percent and adding 2,300 jobs as condo towers have sprouted across the region.

“We’ve been hiring,” said Manny Varas, president of MV Construction Group, a full-service design, construction and project management group with offices on Brickell Avenue. “We have more new projects, more high-rises going up and more demand for qualified construction people.”

One of Varas’ recent hires was John Sanchez, now a superintendent with MV, who had been unemployed since 2011. He was “relieved to be hired,” he said. “I thank God every Sunday.”

Sanchez is currently overseeing four jobs for MV and has hired four laborers to work for him in the past five months. “Everybody’s finding work now,” Sanchez said. “And with subcontractors, you got to get to them before somebody else does. If you don’t schedule them, you lose them.”

Another bright sign: Manufacturing employment, which added 2,100 jobs from last July, grew by 5.8 percent.

“This is certainly welcomed,” Cruz said. “We like to see jobs that are producing something.”

Other sectors that saw improvement in Miami-Dade were financial activities and professional and business services, with a 5.4 percent and 3 percent increase, respectively.” We need to continue that,” said the Beacon Council’s Donath. “We want to create the higher-paying jobs, the semi-skilled and skilled jobs.”

In Miami-Dade, wholesale trade and government were the only sectors that lost jobs year over year. The drop was no surprise, particularly in government, where policy and budget pressure have led to cuts, Cruz said.

Florida’s 6.2 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate matched the U.S. unemployment rate, continuining a streak of being less than or equal to the national rate for 14 of the past 15 months. About 597,000 Floridians out of 9,611,000 were jobless.

State economists expect job growth to continue, though not necessarily at the same brisk pace. The number of jobs in Florida grew by 208,500 compared to a year ago, the 48th consecutive month with positive annual growth. Trade, transportation and utilities gained the most jobs, with an increase of 43,200 or 2.7 percent. The rate of job growth, however, was highest in construction, with the addition of 40,600 statewide, or an 11.1 percent increase.

“The message clearly is that we can expect this to continue through the rest of the year,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida. “Year over year it’s been a broad labor market recovery. You see growth in pretty much every sector of the economy.”

South Florida, he added, had “an additional engine from outside,” in tourism, international trade and foreign investors.

In Miami-Dade, 88,838 workers remained out of work in July. In Broward 61,054 were unemployed.

The month-to-month unadjusted rate of unemployment dropped from 7.4 percent in June to 6.8 percent in July for Miami-Dade. In Broward the month-to month inched upward, from 5.3 percent to 5.7 percent. Snaith attributed this to an increase in the number of people looking for work.