The latest snapshot of the state and local job market was released this morning, showing unemployment declining to 6.4% in Florida (seasonally adjusted) and 5.8% in Metro Orlando (not seasonally adjusted). In both cases, the rates were the lowest since 2008. Does that mean that unemployment is no longer much of an issue in Florida? While the job market has improved, readers of this blog can probably guess what I'm going to say next. A major reason for the decline in the Florida unemployment rate over the last year has been the decline in the labor force participation rate, which fell from 60.5% in November 2012 to 59.6% in November 2013 (after already falling quite a bit in prior years). If the participation rate had remained steady over the last 12 months, the unemployment rate would be about 7.7%, a small decline from last November's 8%. Though employment growth was modest in November (net increase of 6100 jobs, nearly 60% of which were in retail trade), that's coming off of two strong months of job growth in which the state economy added nearly 69,000 jobs.
Metro Orlando's unemployment rate declined as well, but some of it reflects seasonal issues (the local data released today are not seasonally adjusted) and some of it is likely due to a lower participation rate. That said, there is real improvement in the local job market, but not as much as implied in the official figures. Employment growth in both Florida and Orlando exceeded the national average over the last 12 months (2.7% in Orlando, 2.5% in Florida, 1.7% in the US). Leading growth sectors statewide (since Nov 2012) were retail trade and professional/technical services while food/drinking places and ambulatory health care services were the top gainers for Orlando over the last 12 months (though retail trade was responsible for half of the employment gains in November, primarily due to seasonal issues, i.e., Christmas!).
What are the key takeaways from this morning's report about the state and local job market? Both continue to improve, but the improvement is somewhat overstated due to fewer people participating in the job market (if you're no longer participating in the job market, you're not counted as unemployed). A relative strengthening of the Florida and Orlando labor markets is evidenced by employment growth statewide and locally exceeding that of the nation (over the last few months as well as the last year).