Florida’s unemployment rate rose from 6.2 percent in February to 6.3 percent in March, one of 17 states to report an increase, but economists pointed out that could reflect additional workers re-entering the labor market after becoming optimistic that more jobs are becoming available.
Hillsborough County’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3 percent last month and Pinellas County’s rate dropped from 6.4 percent in February to 6.3 in March, while Pasco County remained stable at 7.2 percent.
However, the labor market picture is more complex than any single statistic. Interrelated factors including the numbers of new jobs available, the numbers of workers pursuing them, and industry-related trends influence the economic well-being of the state and region.
“Focusing on a single metric to gauge the health of the labor market can lead to a faulty assessment,” said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith, a member of a dozen national forecasting panels including The Wall Street Journal Economic Forecasting Survey and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters.
“The higher unemployment rate may appear at first glance to be a blemish on Florida’s labor market, but a deeper look at today’s job report suggests that it is more of a beauty mark,” he said.
Florida reported 7.7 million jobs in March, up 223,100 jobs compared to March 2013, the 44th consecutive month with positive annual job growth. The state added 22,900 jobs in March compared with February, the best month-over-month record in the nation.
The March employment report reflects that the recovery of Florida’s labor market continues to outpace and outdistance the recovery of the national labor market, Snaith said.
But as the state’s labor market continues to improve, the unemployment rate will be a more stubborn statistic to bring down, he said.
Florida led all states in both percentage and total construction job gains with an 11.5 percent increase and 41,000 new jobs between March 2013 and March 2014. Construction jobs increased by nearly 20,000 from February to March.
Professional and business services jobs led industry sectors in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area with 9,000 more jobs last month compared with March 2013, followed by trade transportation and utilities with 6,400 new jobs, and manufacturing along with education and health services, both with 4,100 new jobs.
Florida’s Palm Coast had the states highest unemployment rate last month at 9.3 percent, while the Fort Walton Beach-Destin area reported the lowest at 4.8 percent.
Reports released Friday did not indicate comparative pay of new jobs.