Unemployment Down But Construction Industry Still Under Pre-Recession Level
Florida is outpacing the nation on job growth.
The state’s job recovery reflects strong growth in education services and tourism sectors, however, despite major strides, the state’s construction industry is still under its pre-recession level and well below the peak in 2006.
Unemployment Down in Broward, Palm Beach Counties
Unemployment eased down to 5 percent in Broward County in October and to 5.6 percent in Palm Beach County, the state said Friday.
The Fort Lauderdale metro area added 24,000 jobs, a 3.2 percent increase from the number of jobs a year ago. The percentage ranked third-highest in the state. The Orlando area added 37,600 jobs, up 3.5 percent. The Miami area added 37,800 jobs, up 3.5 percent.
All three outpaced the statewide job growth of 2.7 percent.
“South Florida is very dynamic,” said Mehael Teshome, economist for PNC Bank, pointing to the region’s international trade, population growth and tourism. Given that, “I’m not surprised that Broward is doing exceptionally well,” he said.
Broward saw gains in all major industry sectors, with the largest numbers in trade, transportation and utilities, which includes retail jobs, and government. Jobs also were added in leisure and hospitality, construction, financial activities, education and health services; other services; and information.
Palm Beach County added 14,800 jobs over October 2013, primarily in education and health services, and professional and business services.
Florida’s unemployment rate in October was 6 percent, the lowest since June 2008. That’s down from 6.7 percent in October 2013 and 6.1 percent a month ago.
The state added 206,900 jobs in October over the number a year ago. All industry sectors added jobs except information, which includes Internet service providers and data processing.
At the same time, “the labor force actually grew — that’s not something every other area in the country is experiencing,” Teshome said. “It’s a sign of confidence in the local economy when more people are entering the workforce.”
Florida saw more job-quitters in October: 8.8 percent of the total unemployed left jobs, up from 8.5 percent a month earlier, while 27.2 percent re-entered the market, up from 26.7 percent. And 11.7 percent were new job-seekers, up from 11.1 percent.
Sean Snaith, economist for the University of Central Florida, said the state still has a large number of “under-employed” workers — peoplewho are over-qualified for their jobs but took them foreconomic reasons. But that should improve as employers begin to hire at a faster pace, Snaith said.
Broward County’s had 24,869 jobs advertised online in October, up 15.6 percent over a year ago, according to Help Wanted Index by The Conference Board. Palm Beach County’s advertised job vacancies increased to 21,355, up 16.5 percent over October 2013.
Jobs Coming Back, But Construction Not What It Used To Be
Florida is well on its way to recovering all jobs lost during the recession, says Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner. But the state’s home building and construction sector is adding less growth than usual.
Despite major strides, the state’s construction industry is still 226,100 jobs under its pre-recession level and 277,300 jobs below the peak in 2006.
Florida’s job recovery has been broad-based, with strong growth in education services and tourism sectors, Vitner said. Even with retail and tourism jobs taken out of the mix, Florida is outpacing the nation on job growth, Vitner said Wednesday.
In South Florida, future job growth will come mostly from business and professional services, a wide category that incudes legal services, management, consulting, engineering and technology-related jobs, Vitner said.
Low-paying jobs remain an issue in the state and the region.
“In sheer number of jobs, most jobs will be added in industries with relative low wages — retail trade and tourism,” Vitner said.
Another factor is that too many of the jobs created have been part-time or jobs have been decreased to part-time when workers’ hours were cut during the recession.
“In a year, we should see full-time employment get back to where it was in 2007,” Vitner said.
That trickles down to the housing market.
Workers need a full-time job to buy a house, which is why Vitner sees a “significant pickup” in sales and residential construction in 2015.
Overall, Wells Fargo economists said in their November forecast that they’re “more optimistic about Florida’s prospects than any time going back to the 1990s.”
Factory growth is on the horizon, including new jobs at Pratt & Whitney’s jet-engine plant in northwestern Palm Beach County. And the state has seen gains in life science jobs, which “only now has really begun to hit its stride,” Vitner said.
Movement of goods is becoming more important in the state, with most ports expanding. Transportation and warehouse employment is up 3.8 percent in Florida, he said.
The state’s housing market continues to recover, and inventories have risen, which should entice more potential buyers into the market. Also, above-average population growth should ultimately boost demand for single-family homes and condominiums, Vitner said.
“We had a lot of investors come in and buy lower priced housing and convert them into rentals. Now some of those investors are stepping back from the market and prices are moderating,” Vitner said. “Still, Florida is a relative bargain compared with other states. You want Florida to be affordable so the boomers can come down and buy.”
Cold weather in the Northeast and Midwest should help propel new retirees to move to the Sunshine State .
“Hopefully, Florida is running ads in Buffalo for all those poor suckers stuck in snow,” Vitner said.
He said Florida has made great strides in improving its competitive position compared with other states, attracting new and expanding businesses. Expansions in aviation, life sciences, higher education and technology are helping to pull additional investment and new businesses and jobs to the state.
He said the development of All Aboard Florida, which will bring high-speed trains from Orlando to West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, promises to strength urban development.