Miamidade Unemployment Dipping Back To Longtime Low Of 5
By Candice Ventra
A key economic official predicts the upcoming holidays will lead Miami-Dade County back to its recent low 5% unemployment rate of December 1999.
As of July, the unemployment rate was 5.2%, compared with 5.5% in July 1999. With both the tourism and shopping seasons approaching, Frank Nero, president & CEO of the Beacon Council, said he expects unemployment to drop to 5% by year’s end.
Factors in unemployment-rate decreases can include the influence of the tourism season, which is usually heightened during the fall and winter months, he said. And an increase in shopping at the holiday season, Mr. Nero said, would bring the rate down by creating a temporary need for more workers.
Brad Williamson, president of the Miami-based Williamson Economics Group Inc., agreed it would be possible for the jobless rate to drop to 5% by the end of 2000 but cautioned against emphasizing such a decrease.
"I think it’s a reasonable prediction but you shouldn’t read too much significance into it," Mr. Williamson said. "The unemployment rate is still a lot higher than the rest of the state."
Florida unemployment was 3.9% as of July, according to Clyde Diao, an economist for the Florida Office of Labor & Employment Security, the same rate the state recorded for that month in 1999.
While Miami-Dade’s most recent unemployment rate was six-tenths of a percentage point less than it was a year ago and more than two percentage points less than it was in 1996, it remained above the state’s average.
In December 1999, the county’s jobless rate declined to as low as 5%, Mr. Diao said, down from the previous low of 5.8% in August 1999.
"The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the total number of unemployed persons by the number of the labor force," Mr. Diao said.
County officials need to make some "structural changes" to the local job market, according to Mr. Williamson. He said economic development organizations need to focus on attracting more non-Latin America-based companies to the region.
"The county has been overly focused on doing business with Latin America," Mr. Williamson said. "It’s good in the long run, but economies down there are very cyclical."
Since 1996, the county has been adding 20,000 jobs a year. If this growth continues, the unemployment rate could fall to nearly 3%, Mr. Nero said.
Prior to 1996, Miami-Dade had been averaging a job-growth rate of about 11,000 jobs a year or between 1.1% and 1.2% of total employment, Mr. Nero said.
The rest of the state’s labor force is growing at an average of 3.5%, experts said.
Although the state is ahead of the county in job growth, Miami-Dade has made significant strides, Mr. Nero said. More than 1 million people now are employed in the county, he said.
The Beacon Council, the county’s economic development agency, has created 7,010 direct and indirect jobs in Miami-Dade so far this fiscal year, council economists said. Details: Florida Department of Labor & Employment Security, (850) 973-5131; Beacon Council, (305) 579-1300; Williamson Economics Group, (305) 759-1478.