Florida’s Jobless Rate Stuck at High 8.8 Percent
Florida’s August jobless rate remained unchanged from July, standing at 8.8 percent as the economy’s jerky recovery continues, the Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.
The August rate was 1.2 points lower than in August 2011 and represented an increase of 77,800 non-agricultural jobs over the year. Total non-agricultural employment grew by 23,200 from July, a net increase that included a loss of 5,200 government positions.
“The month of August showed that 28,000 more Floridians found employment in the private sector and are able to provide for their families,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a prepared statement. “This increase in new jobs is proving that the decisions we’re making here in Florida are pointing our state in the right direction.”
Nationally, the unemployment rate in August fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July, a drop attributed to more people giving up job searches instead of finding jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week. The figure was 1.2 percentage points below an adjusted 9.3 percent rate in August 2011.
Florida’s non agricultural workforce topped 7.3 million in August, an increase of 77,800 jobs from a year ago, or 1.1 percent, the agency reported.
The business and professional sector led the pack, increasing by 4.0 percent, or 42,700 jobs from August 2011. Construction continues to lag, falling 2.6 percent, or 8,500 jobs, from a year ago.
Florida’s civilian workforce fell by 10,000 from July but showed an increase of 9,000 employees over the year, according to figures adjusted for seasonality.
Hendry, Flagler and St. Lucie counties had the state’s highest unemployment rates at 15.3 percent, 12.4 percent and 12.2 percent respectively.
Monroe County had the state’s lowest jobless rate at 5 percent. It was followed by Walton 5.5 percent and Okaloosa at 6.1 percent
Friday’s release is the latest in a series of economic indicators that show the state’s recovery has been far from seamless.
On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report that showed median income in Florida dropped 2.9 percent in 2011.The state’s median income dipped from $45,609 in 2010 to $44,299 in 2011, according to the American Community Survey. The national median income is $50,502.
The survey also found that 17.3 percent, or about one in six Floridians, live below the poverty level, which is about $23,000 for a family of four.
That’s up from 16.5 percent in 2010. National poverty rates also went up to 15.9 percent. Both state and national rates have climbed for the past four years.
Florida existing home sales in August rose 10.8 percent from a year ago, according to data released by Florida Realtors earlier this week. The number of contracts signed but not closed upon jumped 40.2 percent over the same period.
Median price of homes sold also climbed but not as dramatically. Half of the homes sold in August were sold for more than $147,000, a 5.8 percent increase from a year earlier.
Nationally, single family home sales rose 9.3 percent in August from a year ago.
In August, the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research released an economic analysis that attributed a large portion of Florida’s falling unemployment rate –about 70 percent – to a reduction in the labor force and not to people getting back to work.
A Florida International University study released earlier this month reported that Florida in 2011 led the nation in the number of long-term unemployed, with 53 percent of jobless workers still looking for work after six months compared to 43 percent nationwide.
Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, speaking Friday morning at the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists meeting in Jacksonville, said Scott is focused more on the number of jobs created in the state than in small percentage changes in the rate month-to-month.
“There are 150,000 Floridians who today have jobs who didn’t have them” a year ago, Hollingsworth said. “He’s proud of that 150,000…..The job creation is what he’s focused on.”
by Michael Peltier