Florida’s unemployment rate continues to fall but size of workforce still shrinking

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Florida’s unemployment rate continues to fall, dropping another 3 points since March to 7.2 percent — representing about 680,000 jobless Floridians. This rate is the lowest since it has been since September 2008 — and certainly lower than its historic high of 11.4 percent in March 2010.  Indeed, this is the 33rd consecutive month of year-over-year job gains in Florida.

But a fair distance still remains between Florida’s current unemployment rate and the state’s historic low of 3.3 percent in August 2006.

While Florida’s rate has dropped faster than the national average and is indeed lower than many other states, it remains in the bottom half overall – sitting at the 31st lowest rate nationally.  North Dakota leads the nation with a 3.3 percent unemployment rate, while Nevada trails at 9.6.

Of those still unemployed, the greatest percents are among those ages 25 and younger; and among those who are unmarried. About 45 percent of the unemployed were laid off and 9 percent are on temporary layoff; 8 percent left their jobs; 28 percent are re-entrants into the workforce; and 11 percent are new entrants into the workforce.  

Further, over half of the unemployed have been without a job for greater than 15 weeks, and of those, about 39 percent have been job hunting for greater than 27 weeks.

The size of the workforce has also shifted over the past many years, with a smaller percent of Americans being considered into the employment equation.  In the most recent April data, 63.3 percent of the population ages 16 and older were considered part of the workforce, down from 67.1 percent of the population in 2000.  Among women, 57.2 percent are in or seeking employment, compared to 69.8 percent of men.

Florida’s labor force has also contracted.  Over the past month, the number of Floridians who are in or seeking a job feel by 1,000 despite the fact that the state’s adult population grew by 17,000 during this same period of time.  If discouraged workers have simply stopped looking for jobs, the unemployment rate could increase again when these would-be workers start job hunting again.

Florida industries that have gained the greatest numbers of jobs since last April include leisure and hospitality with a gain of 34,400; private education and health services adding 19,700; construction up 15,500; and business and professional services  up 14,300. At the same time, government  lost 8,900 jobs and manufacturing lost 4,000 jobs.  The Tampa Bay area added the greatest number of jobs of any metro area in Florida, up 34,500 jobs since last April.