Sparkle of strong job gains hidden behind economic clouds
Written by Michael Lewis on August 23, 2016
A surprising bundle of healthy economic news sparkles through statistics released Friday that spotlight solid and continuing job gains in Miami-Dade County. The sole dark spot is that the gains received so little public attention.
Figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the county’s percentage of unemployed workers continued a seven-year plunge from 12.4% in August 2009 to 5.4% today.
That means that 71,233 people in the county were unemployed last month, down from 85,013 in July 2015 and a huge plunge from the 151,466 who were jobless seven years ago today.
While even one person not at work is bad news for that family, economists at the Federal Reserve agree that about 4.5% to 6% unemployment is normal and even healthy, since it implies a dynamic economy where people can leave and then reenter the workforce or can change jobs.
In other words, by the Federal Reserve’s definition the economy in Miami-Dade shows about the proper range for unemployment in a healthy community.
The other side of the economic coin from unemployment is employment. And it’s there that some unexpected sparkle shines through in Miami-Dade.
Take the category of professional and business services, where Miami-Dade set an all-time jobs record in July, employing 164,300 persons. The prior high, in June, was 500 persons fewer. In fact, in the past year the county has gained 5,400 professional and business services jobs.
In several other categories the county approached its all-time highs.
In financial activities 81,400 persons were employed in July, just below the record 81,500 in March and 3,000 ahead of the 78,400 working in that sector a year earlier. The category includes both financial and insurance jobs and real estate.
Leisure and hospitality jobs grew 3,600 from July 2015 to July 2016, though they were 1,100 fewer than the June peak for the industry.
Another huge growth was in construction, which gained 13.6% in jobs from July 2015 to July 2016, rising from 40,400 workers to 45,900.
As at any time, some sectors did lose jobs. Manufacturing, where operations in the county have been in decline for decades, fell 4.3% in the year. Information jobs fell 1.6%. And government jobs, another declining sector for years, fell 0.1%.
Still, the overall news is so good you’d think it would be trumpeted far and wide. Instead, it’s hidden behind clouds like Zika, which is almost certainly costing some hospitality income and jobs already, and the condo slowdown that will also hit construction activity.
Then there’s the election, which this year is causing more doom and gloom about our economic present and future than the euphoria of hope that a presidential change usually brings forth. Don’t expect a bump up in our economy no matter which candidate becomes president.
Nevertheless, non-farm employment in the county has grown 1.9% in a single year and unemployment is in a range that federal observers find both normal and economically healthy, with record or near-record employment in some key categories.
Zika will create economic as well as health problems in the county – in fact, the economic aspect may in the end be the more serious of the two. Fortunately, we’re in a strong economic position as a county even as the mosquito battlefield expands in area.
Our community needs to focus on our growing job strength even as we prepare for the downers likely to come from Zika’s tourism impact, the condo sales slowdown and the election that remarkably few of us find economically appealing.
Despite the near-silence on our progress, our job gains are just too strong to ignore.