The latest report about the job market in Florida and its localities was released this morning. The headlines are that the unemployment rate for Florida is 7.1%, the lowest since September 2008. Is the job market as good as it was back then? Not quite. Though progress has been made in recent years, we are still a long way from 2008. Florida is still down 137,000 jobs since September 2008 and has about 550,000 fewer jobs than before the recession. How has the unemployment rate declined so much even though employment is still lagging? The labor force participation rate has declined from about 64% before the recession to 60.3% in May 2013. Thus, most of the decline in the unemployment rate in recent years has been due to a smaller percentage of people participating in the job market.
What sectors have experienced the strongest employment growth in the last year? Interest-sensitive sectors - housing and autos. Areas with the fastest employment growth include construction, auto dealers, building supply stores, and real estate. In terms of absolute numbers, food and drinking places added the most jobs statewide over the last year, up 26,700. What about the most recent month? Florida actually lost jobs, mainly due to a decline on construction, which gave back some of its recent gains.
Unlike statewide, the data released today for metropolitan areas were not seasonally adjusted. Orlando showed no change in employment while the unemployment rate ticked up a little, to 6.6%. The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate will be released in a few weeks and will likely indicate little change in the unemployment rate (close to 6.9%; this estimate is based on historical seasonal adjustments). Over the last year, a majority of the jobs created locally have been in leisure and hospitality (8500 out of 16,800), led by food and drinking places, the fastest growing category over the last 12 months (up 6%).
What are the key takeaways from today's report? The Florida economy continues to heal, but employment growth remains modest. The rate of employment growth in Orlando, Florida and the United States were roughly equal at about 1.6 to 1.7% over the last year.