Jobless rates fall in Palm Beach, Broward counties

By Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Florida has churned out yet another dismal jobs report.

Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation on Friday said the statewide jobless rate for December jumped to 11.8 percent from 11.5 percent a month earlier. The number of people out of work climbed to 1.087 million from 1.064 million a month earlier. December’s rate is the highest for the state since May 1975’s 11.9 percent.

If you throw in discouraged workers and those forced to work part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs, the rate jumps to 19.6 percent of Florida’s work force.

Palm Beach and Broward had declines in their rates — Palm Beach to 11.5 percent from 11.7 percent a month earlier, Broward to 10.0 percent from 10.2 percent. But those declines are likely due to seasonal factors, such as holiday hiring by retailers. County rates are not seasonally adjusted, while state figures are.

state and local jobless chart for december

“Why is the jobs market taking so long to recover? Tight credit, especially for businesses and also sluggish consumer spending as people try to lower their debt levels and live more within their means,” said Rebecca Rust, chief economist for the agency.

At 11.9 percent, the unemployment rate has exceeded the ceiling predicted by the Economic Estimating Conference, a group of economists from the governor’s office and the Legislature that last met in November. The conference at that time predicted a slow turnaround in the state’s economy will begin in the second quarter of the year. The group will update their forecast next month.

The December jobs report showed construction taking the biggest hit among the various business sectors, losing 59,900 jobs during the previous 12 months. Trade, transportation and utilities lost 52,900 jobs; professional and business services lost 40,600 jobs; manufacturing lost 38,300 jobs.

While those numbers are in some cases have declined compared to recent months, it’s not necessarily good news, because those sectors lost significant numbers of jobs over the previous year and have less to lose, Rust said.

As with previous months, the only sector to gain jobs was private education and health services, plus 9,800, or 0.9 percent, and all of those came on the health services side.

Rust said there are a number of factors that could influence the state’s jobs numbers over coming months, including:

— NASA’s move to retire the space shuttle. There is some evidence that it’s already had an effect, but the hope is there will be federal money flowing to the state to ease the impact.

— An inflow of Haitian refugees could add to the long lines of those seeking jobs. While the number of Haitian nationals is expected to be relatively small, many Florida residents in Haiti are expected to return to the Sunshine State. On the positive side, it could create demand for some jobs, such as teachers.

“We would expect some impact, but it’s not considered to be significant at this point,” Rust said.

— The damage to crops caused by the recent cold snap could cut into agricultural payrolls.

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