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Miami-Dade unemployment rate ticks up for 3rd straight month

THE MIAMI HERALD

South Florida’s labor market may have reached the limit of its economic recovery.

For the third consecutive month, Miami-Dade County’s unemployment rate inched up — if only slightly.

In May, Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate hit 6.3 percent, up from 6.2 percent in April and 6 percent in March, according to state data released Friday. That’s still down significantly from May 2014 when the jobless rate stood at 7 percent. Those figures are adjusted to account for seasonal changes in the workforce.

Miami-Dade also added nearly 30,500 non-agricultural jobs year-over-year.

Broward County’s unemployment rate went up, too, growing to 5.2 percent in May from 4.9 percent in April. Broward’s numbers are not seasonally adjusted, meaning they are not as accurate a monthly barometer of economic health. But the annual trend there is good: Broward’s unemployment rate is down from 5.9 percent in May 2014.

“I think we’re at the point where any further declines in the unemployment rate are going to be hard-earned,” said Sean Snaith, a professor at the University of Central Florida who studies the state’s economy. “I still think they can drift lower, but the gains aren’t going to be as easily had.”

“Are we going to see the 3 percent rates we saw when the housing market was white-hot during the bubble?” Snaith asked. “I don’t think so.”

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But the underlying factors driving South Florida’s economy are still strong.

More people are moving to the region. Hotels and resorts are reporting strong occupancy rates. And construction, tourism and white-collar office professions — which have propelled the local recovery — all reported healthy job gains. Only the category that includes government workers lost jobs year-over-year.

“It’s pan-sector growth,” Snaith said. “We’re seeing job creation across industries.”

That makes it likely that the unemployment rate here will hold steady.

"We continue to add jobs throughout most industries in Miami-Dade," Larry Williams, president of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic development arm, said in a statement. "Most notably, we continue to add jobs in industries that lost a large portion of their workforce during the recession."

And there is high demand for certain specialized jobs. Contractors can’t find enough skilled construction workers to help build the condo towers and other developments springing up across South Florida.

There are about 30,000 fewer skilled construction workers in today’s labor market than there were at the height of the last real estate boom. That’s hurting developers.

On a tour of Brickell City Centre —a massive, mixed-use development with a price-tag of $1.05 billion — developer Stephen Owens said the project employs about 2,400 workers, but he’d hire 300 more if he could.

“We need more skilled workers,” he said. “There’s a real shortage because of the number of projects happening.”

South Florida’s small increase in the ranks of the jobless was mirrored statewide: Florida’s unemployment rate nudged up to 5.7 percent in May, compared to 5.6 percent in April.

The state's jobless rate remains slightly higher than the national rate of 5.5 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the new unemployment rate at a Central Florida imaging technology company. Scott has made job creation the main focus during his time in office.

New national data shows that Florida added the sixth highest number of jobs in the nation in May. California, New York, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania added more jobs Florida did last month.

The unemployment rate only measures people who are actively looking for a job but can’t find one. It does not take into account those who have given up on finding work.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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