Friday, January 24, 2014

The Florida & Orlando Job Market

The latest information about the state and local job market was released this morning, showing rising employment and a declining unemployment rate for both Florida and metro Orlando.  Though I normally comment on the data for the month, since this report wrapped up 2013, I think it's helpful to also reflect on the year.

The unemployment rate in Florida declined from 6.4% to 6.2%.  If you've read this blog before, you know the next question - was it due to employment growth or fewer people participating in the job market?  The participation rate was down fractionally, so this time it reflects an improvement in the labor market.  For metro Orlando, the unemployment rate fell to 5.5% from 5.9%.  Some of this was due to seasonal factors, but it also reflects a stronger job market.

Florida added over 14,000 jobs in December, 13,500 in the private sector led by retail trade, which added 9100 jobs (seasonally adjusted).  Orlando added 6500 jobs in the private sector (6000 overall; not seasonally adjusted), with half of the jobs added in retail trade (2100) and food/accommodation places (1000).  Looking at the monthly figures, it's easy to question the quality of jobs added both statewide (70% in retail) and locally (50% in retail & hotels/restaurants).  However ...

For 2013 as a whole, Florida added nearly 195,000 jobs in the private sector (3.1%).  The largest gains were in construction (+8.4%), retail trade (+5.5%), real estate, rental, & leasing (+4.9%).  Digging a little deeper, leading categories included civil engineering construction (+12.9%), building material and supply stores (+10.3%), architectural, engineering and related services (+9.8%), and specialty trade contractors (+8.7%).  In other words, the housing rebound contributed significantly to a rebound in the Florida job market.

Meanwhile, metro Orlando added 32,500 private sector jobs, a gain of 3.4%.  Leading sectors included ambulatory health care services (+7.1%), arts & recreation (+6.5%), food/drinking places (+5.1%), and real estate, rental & leasing (+4.7%).  Though construction was an outperformer, it didn't play as significant role locally as it did statewide.

What about the unemployment rate?  The Florida unemployment rate declined from 7.9% in December 2012 to 6.2% in December 2013.  However, much of the decline was due to a falling labor force participation rate, which fell from 60.5% to 59.6%.  If the participation rate had remained stable, the current unemployment rate would have been 7.57%.  Nationally, the falling participation rate was responsible for the entire decline in the unemployment rate (i.e., the unemployment rate for the US would have remained at 7.9% if the participation rate had remained constant).

What's the key takeaway from the report?  Though retail was largely responsible for the job gains in Florida in December (remember, the data are seasonally adjusted, so that's not due to Christmas), the Florida job market outperformed that of the nation in 2013, both in terms of job gains and falling unemployment.