Strong Miami employment numbers track state and nation
Written by Michael Lewis on March 5, 2019
Mixed signals from external events may complicate a coherent economic outlook for Miami, but one thing is sure: employment is booming today.
In interpreting where we’re heading locally, how much heed should we pay to the tragedy of Venezuela or the potential fallout of Michael Cohen’s testimony, to the failure of talks with North Korea or the Brexit debacle? Which of these or other externalities could blow our solid economic growth off course?
And is one of the strongest US job markets in decades adequately reflected here?
In January, we raised warning flags about Miami’s economy:
1. Our very strong trade sector depends on nations around the globe for its health, but unsettled trade accords could impact us much more than the nation as a whole.
2. Our filming sector has withered in recent years as state incentives disappeared and much of that industry followed them out the door.
3. Problems abroad could impact Miami in tourism, trade and investments, because when other nations sneeze, we catch cold.
4. Miami-Dade depends on the outside world to grow our labor force, yet federal efforts are squeezing foreign immigration that we rely upon.
5. As higher-skilled professions and occupations displace low-tech jobs, Miami-Dade is very short of vital top-level tech talent we need.
Well, the job market has since shown more bright rays of good news.
New figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Miami-Dade’s civilian labor force in December was the largest ever, exceeding 1.4 million workers. That’s 35,000 more than we’ve ever had.
Not only did we have the workers, but we had the jobs. At the end of December 1.35 million people were working in this county, again most in history and nearly 30,000 more than at the end of November, which was the previous record-setting month.
At the same time, for the past four months the number of persons unemployed here has been at the lowest since the Great Recession a decade ago. We had 50,100 out of work at the end of December, with just 3.6% unemployment. While any unemployment is bad, this is a more-than-tolerable level.
More good figures:
Our county’s total non-farm workforce is largest in history at 1.225 million.
The number of people working in construction in Miami-Dade is the most since 2008 – although construction reports released by Dodge Data & Analytics last week show the total value of building starts in South Florida fell 45% in January from January 2018, which in combination with double-digit declines in home and condo re-sales here in January raises caution flags about future construction job levels.
Our more than 310,000 people working in the broad categories of trade, transportation and utilities is another an all-time record.
So, in fact, is the 193,500 working in educational and health services.
And one more record – in hospitality, where conditions abroad have caused some concerns about future visitor inflows, we have another all-time high at almost 150,000 workers in the sector in Miami-Dade.
We aren’t alone. The economy of the nation as a whole grew 2.9% last year, according to figures released last week, and the national economy has added jobs for 100 consecutive months.
Closer to home, all of Florida is booming in jobs.
The end of December reached all-time records in Florida’s civilian labor force; employment; total nonfarm workers; jobs in trade, transportation and utilities; workers in financial activities; workers employed in professional and business services; workers on the job in health and education services; and leisure and hospitality sector jobs.
Certainly, in most of these booming industry sectors Florida employers pay lower average wages than jobs in the North, but total jobs are increasing fast, which could well pressure wage levels to rise.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week on that. It listed average weekly wages at $1,000 in Miami-Dade, $998 in Broward and $1,015 in Palm Beach County.
In virtually every job category South Florida pays less than the nation as a whole. Exceptions are waitresses, who average $13.31 per hour in this area and just $12.15 nationally, and fast food cooks, who average $11.33 per hour here and $10.39 nationally.
But in higher-paid categories we trail the nation as a whole. For example, We pay construction laborers an average of $14.93 per hour versus an average $18.70 nationally.
If there are caution flags, consumers obviously aren’t heeding them. Consumer sentiment among Floridians rose 2.8 points in February from 98.1 to 100.9, paralleling a similar sentiment gain nationally, according to a new University of Florida study.
Part of the improvement was clearly triggered by the end of the partial shutdown of the federal government, but that’s not all – it was the second-strongest month in 17 years for consumer sentiment.
And since consumer spending is the largest single component of economic growth, let’s hope the public is indicating with that positive behavior that consumer spending will help keep our employment strong.