Pay no attention to the fact that Florida’s unemployment rate is a tick above the national average — 6.2 percent compared with 6.1 percent. This month’s news for the state is encouraging, says PNC Financial Services Florida Economist Mekael Teshome. “It’s not a comparison that’s important to make.”
What is important is that Florida led the nation in job growth in June, with the addition of 37,000 new jobs, he said. The unemployment rate was also down in every county included in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, compared to a year ago.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released its monthly jobs report on Friday.
“The good things include that (June) saw the highest number of jobs we’ve added in years, in one month,” Teshome said. That is a drastic turnaround from May, when Florida led the nation in job losses, 17,900 of them.
“It is the most (new jobs) since 2010 when we had the census hiring. If you take that out of the equation, you would have to go back to 2005 to see that many jobs added in one month” in Florida, Teshome said.
Since June 2013, the state has added 237,500 jobs, according to Gov. Rick Scott’s office. Of those, 25,300 new jobs were created in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, the governor said in a press release.
“The other thing this month is these were good jobs added, not just leisure and hospitality,” Teshome said. “Construction saw pretty good gains, so did professional and technical services and health care.”
The additional jobs still weren’t enough to push down the state’s unemployment rate significantly. Florida’s unemployment rate took a slight dip from May — 0.1 percent, but is down significantly from June 2013 when the rate was 7.4 percent. The jobless rate has remained largely flat for the first half of 2014.
In the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, the unemployment rate for June (not seasonally adjusted) came in at 6.3 percent, up from 6.2 percent in May, but down from the 7.7 percent unemployment here in June 2013. Breaking that down further, Hillsborough County’s unemployment rate for June was 6.2 percent, compared to 6.0 in May and 7.5 percent a year ago.
Pasco and Polk counties unemployment rates were both down significantly from a year ago. Pasco County’s rate for June was 6.9 percent, compared to 6.8 percent in May. The Pasco unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in June 2013. Polk County’s unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in June, compared to 6.8 percent in May, but down from 8.7 percent in June 2013.
The Pinellas County unemployment rate stayed at 6 percent like it was in May, which is down from 7.5 percent a year ago. Hernando County showed a 7.9 percent unemployment rate in June, compared to 7.7 percent in May and still down significantly from 9.5 percent a year ago.
“What this month’s data shows is that Florida’s economy is gaining momentum and that reinforces our forecast for stronger economic growth in 2014, versus 2013,” Teshome said.
“Florida’s economy is strengthening in terms of housing and tourism. As the rest of the nation’s economy strengthens, people have more money to come visit Florida or even to sell their houses elsewhere and retire to Florida,” he said.
The third key driver is in-migration, Teshome said. More people are moving to Florida.
If there is any bad news, he said, it is that employment in Florida is still 3 percent lower than its pre-recession peak. “The U.S. has surpassed its pre-recession peak. We still have a way to go to climb out of the hole. That is partly because Florida had a deeper hole to climb out of.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.