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Once down and out, Florida job market gathers national steam

Renaissance Vinoy Resort food and beverage operations manager Mark Jenkins, right, speaks Monday with, from left, Lataysha Berrien, 21, of Clearwater, Rita Petrino, 56, and Kelli Redman, 19, both of St. Petersburg, at the Tampa Bay Job & Career Fair at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg. The two young women are in the post-high school extended learning program at Richard L. Sanders School in Pinellas Park. Petrino is their teacher.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Renaissance Vinoy Resort food and beverage operations manager Mark Jenkins, right, speaks Monday with, from left, Lataysha Berrien, 21, of Clearwater, Rita Petrino, 56, and Kelli Redman, 19, both of St. Petersburg, at the Tampa Bay Job & Career Fair at the Coliseum in St. Petersburg. The two young women are in the post-high school extended learning program at Richard L. Sanders School in Pinellas Park. Petrino is their teacher.

If the sharp drop in Florida and Tampa Bay unemployment rates was worthy of applause, add a cautionary cheer for our state's job gains compared with the rest of the nation.

It's a key test in answering: How goes Florida's recovery?

Florida's increase of 32,700 jobs in March topped the monthly gains reported in any other state, sweeping by No. 2 California with its 25,500 jobs, according to numbers released last week.

No, Florida's job engine is not yet firing on all cylinders. We're good at creating lower-wage jobs but weak at making higher wage opportunities. We still have too many job hunters bowing out of the employment hunt. And we need to figure out how to help young adults and minorities whose ultra-high unemployment rates signal they are not yet part of a job recovery.

But come on, folks. Florida's unemployment rate has tumbled to 7.5 percent from 8.9 percent in just a year. Tampa Bay plummeted even further to 6.9 percent. Those improvements should make plenty of other states and cities jealous. Consider:

• In the past year, March to March, Florida added 141,300 jobs. More than a fifth of those gains were recorded in one month: March 2013.

• Only two larger states gained more jobs — Texas with 329,500 jobs and California with 285,900 — in the past year than Florida. New York, third in population and still slightly bigger than Florida, created only 85,300, or 40 percent, fewer jobs than the Sunshine State in the past year.

• Over the past two years, Florida jobs increased by 231,100. The pace of new employment in the state grew 50 percent faster in 2012-2013 period than in 2011-2012.

• Compare Florida's 7.5 percent jobless rate with the other three big population states. California and New York are higher at 9.4 and 8.2 percent, respectively. Only Texas, at 6.4 percent, is lower.

• For the first time in five years, Florida's unemployment rate is now below the U.S. average.

What types of jobs in Florida blossomed the most in the past year? Transport, autos, entertainment and teaching.

Let's get more precise. Here are the top five jobs based on percentage gains: Support activities in transportation, up 8.5 percent; motor vehicle and parts dealers, up 7.7 percent; auto dealers, up 6.7 percent; amusement parks and arcades, up 6.6 percent, and elementary and secondary schools, up 6.5 percent.

The biggest job losers of the past year include grocery and related wholesalers, down 4.4 percent; durable goods manufacturing, down 3.9 percent, and wired telecommunications carriers, down 3.6 percent.

A national survey this month by Gallup found that 26 percent of Americans say now is a good time to find a quality job. While that's the highest figure since March 2008, it's still a low number.

Nationally, Nevada had the nation's highest unemployment rate in March, 9.7 percent, which was an uptick from 9.6 percent in February. Thanks to the natural gas boom, North Dakota again held the nation's lowest jobless rate, 3.3 percent.

It was not all so long ago, in December 2005, when Florida owned that very same and lowest 3.3 percent jobless rate. Hitting that figure again seems ambitious. But the employment scene is gathering some serious momentum.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Once down and out, Florida job market gathers national steam 04/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 10:28am]
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