Central Florida is becoming the "bread basket" of job growth in the state

According to state figures released Friday, Florida's unemployment rate inched down last month to 3.3 percent from June's 3.4 percent, down from 3.5 percent in July of last year.
Published August 16
Updated August 16

Despite concerns about a potentially impending recession, Florida continued to experience strong employment and job growth in July, according to state figures released Friday.

"It's just kind of glacial, and that's the way people should look at it," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James Financial. "We still have a very tight labor market in Florida."

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida's unemployment rate inched down last month to 3.3 percent from June's 3.4 percent. That’s down from 3.5 percent in July of last year. The state added 22,900 jobs over the month, up less than 1 percent from the same month in 2018.

Education and health services have led the state in job growth, adding 65,900 jobs over the year (up 3 percent), followed by business and professional services (41,900 jobs, up 3 percent) and leisure and hospitality (25,900 jobs, up 2 percent).

The information sector, which has been shrinking, actually gained 500 jobs in July compared to July 2018. Information includes newspapers, broadcasting and telecommunications firms such as Frontier Communications and Spectrum.

While the numbers are largely strong because of a tight labor market, economists said, the metro-level data may indicate a growing trend in the state.

"Central Florida is the new bread basket for the state in terms of job creation and economic growth," said Sean Snaith, economist at the University of Central Florida. "If you look at Tampa (Bay) and Orlando combined, there's more than 80,000 jobs created."

Tampa Bay added the third-largest number of jobs of any Florida metro from July 2018 to last month (31,500 jobs, up 2.4 percent). It trailed Orlando (49,000 jobs, up almost 4 percent) and Miami (31,700 jobs, up 2.7 percent).

Panama City was the only metro area to lose jobs over the year (2,400 jobs, down 2.7 percent). It was one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael last year.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in July from June's 3.5 percent.

Hillsborough County's unemployment rate stayed at 3.4 over the month, Hernando County's dropped to 4.5 percent from 4.7 percent, Pasco County dipped to 3.8 percent from June's 3.9 percent and Pinellas County slid to 3.1 percent from June's 3.2 percent.

What wasn't captured in the state jobs report was young adult and teenage employment, Raymond James' Brown said. Nationally, there was a spike in summer jobs this year, which has been absent during the recovery.

"It's going to be an interesting issue what happens in the fall when those kids go back to school," he said. "Are the firms going to be able to find workers to replace them?"

Nationally, the unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in July.

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