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TMCNet:  Florida unemployment rate dips to 8.5 percent

[November 16, 2012]

Florida unemployment rate dips to 8.5 percent

Nov 16, 2012 (Orlando Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Florida's unemployment dipped to 8.5 percent in October, down two-tenths of a percentage point from September and 1.7 percentage points lower than the same time last year, state officials said Friday.


The statewide rate is now at its lowest level since December 2008.

The jobless rate in Metro Orlando, meanwhile, tumbled from 8.4 percent to 7.9 percent in October, as the region added about 6,800 jobs over the month.

Central Florida led the state in year-over-year gains, adding 21,700 jobs for an increase of 2.1 percent.

But the area's sharp drop in unemployment was a bit misleading. It was driven, in part, by the almost 3,000 Central Floridians who dropped out of the labor force. If the size of the labor force had remained constant, Metro Orlando's jobless rate would have declined to 8.2 percent, not 7.9 percent.

Still, Rollins College economist Bill Seyfried said the new numbers represent "a pretty good report overall." Statewide, total jobs are up 14,700 over the month and 67,600 over the year. The state's unemployment rate fell even as the labor force grew by 40,000, meaning the falling jobless rate was not simply a factor of people abandoning their job searches.

"More people entered the labor force," Seyfried said. "So it's a more legitimate figure." The jobless rate represents about 790,000 unemployed Floridians in a labor force of 9.3 million.

Professional and business services posted the biggest year-over-year gain, adding 25,600 jobs, an increase of 2.4 percent. Both trade, transportation and utilities and private education and health services grew by about 23,300 jobs over the year.

Government jobs are down 12,900 positions compared to the same time last year, and construction is down 4,900 jobs.

Seyfried, however, said construction in Metro Orlando has been improving. It has grown by about 11 percent over the past year, and another 1,100 jobs were added in October.

Locally, it's at its highest level since November 2010, though it remains far below the peak of 90,000 jobs hit in 2006.

"Relative to the last few years," Seyfried said, "construction in Orlando is doing quite well." Gov. Rick Scott has staked his entire first term on job creation and is quick to tout any improvement in the labor market. He issued a statement Friday saying Florida was "creating an environment that fosters job creation, economic development and provides a skilled workforce." "There is still more work that needs to be done," he said, "but I'm confident we're on the right path." The state's jobless rate has been in a slow decline for almost two years. Job creation, however, has been modest.

Chris McCarty, an economist who directs the University of Florida's Survey Research Center, said the gradual improvement has helped boost consumer confidence -- though his findings are mixed.

The good news Consumer confidence has recently hit post-recession highs. The bad news Those highs are still historically low.

McCarty said he expects consumer confidence levels to soon slide a bit -- for reasons unrelated to the labor market.

"With the [presidential] election over, basically half of the state is going to be disappointed," he said. "I think that will be factored in." jstratton@tribune.com or 407-420-5379.

___ (c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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