The latest report regarding the status of the labor market for Florida and its metro areas was released this morning and it confirmed the recent strengthening taking place in the local job market. Though the unemployment rate for Florida rose slightly, it was due to an increase in the number of people looking for jobs rather than fewer jobs available. After declining since the start of the recession and falling to slightly less than 60% a few months ago, the participation rate is now 60.5%. Payrolls rose by nearly 23,000 in March, with private payrolls up 3.5% over the last 12 months (one of the highest rates in the nation). Leading sectors included accommodation and food services (up 6200 for the month) and construction/real estate. Construction has now added over 40,000 jobs (+11.5%) since last March and is up nearly 20% since reaching a low in the summer of 2011 while real estate, rental and leasing finance has added 7700 jobs over the last 12 months (+4.7%). The good news in construction and related sectors should be tempered by recognizing that construction employment is back up to where it was in July 2009, at the end of the recession.
Central Florida added 3000 jobs in March (not seasonally adjusted), 2600 of which were in leisure/hospitality. As with the state, construction had the largest employment growth rate over the last year, up 8.6%. Other areas of growth included leisure/hospitality (up 9500 or 4.3%), retail trade (up 5600 or 4.3%) and professional/business services (up 5500 or 3.2%).
After modest job growth in recent years that struggled to keep up with population growth, both the local and state job markets have strengthened recently, achieving both stronger and broader employment gains which have begun to attract those on the sidelines to re-enter the job market.