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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Florida's unemployment rate in July remains steady at 4.1 percent

After four consecutive months of decline, Florida's unemployment rate is leveling out. The state's jobless rate was 4.1 percent in July, the same as June according to state figures released Friday.

"It's been largely reflecting what's going on at the national level," Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, said.

Nationally, unemployment was 4.3 percent in July.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate remained steady from June at 4.1 percent in July. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties were also unchanged — 4.1 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. Hernando's jobless rate dipped slightly from 5.4 in June to 5.3 percent in July. Pasco, too, dropped from 4.6 percent to 4.5 percent in July.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the latest job numbers Friday in Tampa.

Construction gained the most jobs — 35,800 — from this time a year ago. Tampa Bay led the state in over-the-year job creation with 40,800 jobs since July 2016.

"This achievement is a direct reflection of the collaborative efforts of our public and private sector leaders to make Tampa and Hillsborough County the most desirable place in the nation to build, relocate, or expand a business," Craig Richard, CEO of Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., said in a statement.

One area economists are keeping an eye on is retail. Retail job growth has been weak in recent months, gaining just 500 jobs — 1 percent — over the month.

"That's a big concern because the consumer is 70 percent of the economy," Raymond James' Brown said. "If that doesn't pick up, then you're still going to end up with this subpar trend in GDP growth."

Mekael Teshome, economist at PNC Financial Services, said the issue might be technology changes. More people are moving to online shopping.

"There is some concern that perhaps retail space physically may have been overbuilt," he said. "I don't think it's a sign that consumption is going down."

It's part of the belt-tightening felt in many areas of the economy. Companies watching their bottom line aren't raising wages the way economists typically expect once the unemployment rate goes down, which hinders progress toward full employment.

Previous coverage: Florida's unemployment rate drops for fourth straight month

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.

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