Florida's job market could take a decade to recover

By David Sedore, Palm Beach Business.com

DELRAY BEACH — First the good news, or at least what passes for good news these days: the unemployment rate for Florida held steady in July and isn’t likely to creep much higher until the economy starts to grow again next year.

Now, the bad: expect unemployment to remain relatively high for the better part of the next decade, with little growth for the next couple of years.

Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation on Friday reported July’s statewide jobless rate at 10.7 percent, same as the revised rate for June. Palm Beach County’s jobless rate bumped up to 11.3 percent from last’s month’s 11.2 percent. A year ago, it was 7.2 percent.

The state rate is adjusted for seasonal factors that influence the job market; county rates are not.

“We can say the deterioration in the job market has moderated over the last month,” said Rebecca Rust, the chief economist for the agency.

If Florida’s economic estimating conference has it right, the statewide jobless rate won’t get much higher. The conference, which is a gathering of economists from the Legislature and the governor’s office, is predicting that unemployment will peak at 11 percent in the second quarter of 2010, about the same time the conference sees Florida’s economy starting to grow again

Problem is, employers tend not to hire until a recovery is well underway. In fact, the estimating conference is predicting that the state’s economy will see little growth until 2011-2012, and Florida’s jobless rate will remain above 6 percent until 2018.

The last time the economy was the bad, the recession of 1974-75, unemployment neared 12 percent but the recovery that followed dropped the rate to 6 percent by 1980.

Rust said the earlier recession affected mainly multifamily housing construction. This recession involves all kinds of construction and a credit crunch to boot that makes it difficult for businesses and consumers to spend.

“That’s what’s going to cause our unemployment rate to remain higher for a longer period of time,” Rust said.

The ranks of the unemployed swelled to 987,000 statewide, seasonally adjusted, up from 980,000 in June. In Palm Beach County, 71,192 were jobless, up from 69,793 a month earlier and 45,931 a year ago. County numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

In Broward, the unemployment rate held stead at 9.5 percent, same as June but up from the 5.8 percent reported a year ago. In Miami-Dade, the rate held at 11.6 percent In July, same as a month earlier. A year ago, the jobless rate was at 5.9 percent.

Trade, transportation and utilities had the biggest job losses over the previous 12 months, down 99,100; professional and business services, down 90,600, construction, down 88,900, leisure and hospitality, down 40,700.

Private education and health care once again was the only sector showing any growth, up 5,400, and all in health care.


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