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Miami-Dade’s unemployment rate fell in August

Job seeker Youssef Caraballo, 37, third from the left, and wife, Maylyn Caraballo, 37, look through the job fair program as they line-up outside the Shula Hotel & Golf Resort for a job fair in Miami Lakes in April.
Job seeker Youssef Caraballo, 37, third from the left, and wife, Maylyn Caraballo, 37, look through the job fair program as they line-up outside the Shula Hotel & Golf Resort for a job fair in Miami Lakes in April. THE MIAMI HERALD

The local economy picked up steam this summer despite instability in Europe, China and Latin America and talk of rising U.S. interest rates.

Miami-Dade County’s seasonally adjusted, non-farm unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent in August, down from 6.1 percent in July, according to state numbers released Friday.

While drops in the unemployment rate sometimes signal a contraction of the labor force or some other worrying indicator, this month’s preliminary numbers were all good: The labor force and the number of people with jobs both grew, and the number of unemployed people fell.

5.9 percentMiami-Dade’s unemployment rate for August

“We’re seeing improved consumer spending, more people working, cheaper gasoline, a strong housing market and population growth,” said Mekael Teshome, an economist at PNC Bank.

The county’s unemployment rate has been falling consistently as the economy recovers. It stood at 6.6 percent in August 2014.

In Broward County, the unemployment rate dipped to 5.1 percent in August, compared to 5.3 percent in July and 7.3 percent in August 2014. Unlike Miami-Dade, Broward’s rate is not adjusted to account for seasonal changes in the labor force, making it a less reliable month-to-month measure of local economic conditions.

Broward also added 28,000 jobs year-over-year, the third-most in the state after the Orlando and Tampa areas.

Official definition of unemployment: the percentage of people looking for jobs who can’t find them

South Florida’s job gains were driven by the region’s most reliable engines of economic growth: tourism, retail, construction and healthcare. But the categories that include white-collar workers such as lawyers, accountants, engineers and financial professionals also grew. Only government lost jobs year-over-year.

The statewide unemployment picture also improved: Florida’s jobless rate fell to 5.3 percent in August, down from 5.5 percent in July. The national rate stood at 5.1 percent in August, down from 5.3 percent in July.

“It was another good report, but I’m anxious to see what the next couple months hold,” said Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida.

It was another good report but I’m anxious to see what the next couple months hold

Sean Snaith, University of Central Florida economist

Currencies have plummeted in Latin America and Europe and China’s stock market is in turmoil. While the Federal Reserve declined to raise interest rates in September, a gradual hike does seem likely in the coming months, which would raise borrowing costs for businesses and consumers.

“There’s a lot of headwinds blowing up around the world,” Snaith said. “It may not be manifesting itself in Florida yet but if it persists it may take some steam out of the labor market’s recovery.”

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity releases a monthly report on job numbers across the state. It will announce finalized figures for August in October.

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