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Here’s why lower unemployment in Miami-Dade isn’t all good news

In this photo taken Wednesday, July 15, 2015, job seekers listen as Kaysara Mandry, center, talks about job opportunities at the Domino's booth during a job fair in Miami Lakes.
In this photo taken Wednesday, July 15, 2015, job seekers listen as Kaysara Mandry, center, talks about job opportunities at the Domino's booth during a job fair in Miami Lakes. AP

Miami-Dade County’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in May, down from 5.6 percent in April — but the news wasn’t all good.

The county’s labor force — the number of people who either have a job or are looking for one — fell for the fourth straight month, according to state data. The shrinking local labor force has led to a drop in the unemployment rate, even though there are actually 17,000 fewer people working now than there were in May 2015, when the unemployment rate stood at 6.3 percent.

As people give up on finding work or retire, they drop out of the officially counted labor force. When the unemployment rate drops because of a shrinking labor force, it often reflects tepid growth, not an improving economy.

A slowdown in Latin America has been a drag on Miami’s economy so far this year. And nationally the labor market is slowing, too, after several years of growth. That’s led the Federal Reserve to hold off, for now, on raising key interest rates after a small hike in December.

“The international component to Miami’s economy is not as strong as it was a few years ago,” said Mekael Teshome, an analyst at PNC Bank. “We’ll need a few more months to see if the trend continues downward. ... Surrounding counties are still doing well.”

In Broward County, which is not as reliant on Latin, America, the unemployment rate fell to 4.1 percent in May, down from 4.3 percent in April and 5.2 percent in May 2015.

Florida’s unemployment hit 4.7 percent in May, compared to 4.8 percent in April and 5.4 percent in May 2015. Its labor force has expanded over the last year.

“Florida as a whole is at cruising speed,” driven by new people and businesses moving into the state, Teshome said. “This has been going on for some time. We expect it to continue at a rate faster than the national average.”

The national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent.

All rates except Broward’s are adjusted to account for seasonal variations in the labor force.

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