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The Atlanta Fed's SouthPoint offers commentary and observations on various aspects of the region's economy.

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Whither Florida?

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released January state employment data on March 13, they showed that Florida had lost 38,600 jobs—a decline of 0.5 percent from December levels.

What happened? Has the state's budding employment recovery been derailed? Let's dig into the numbers.

Job losses in the Sunshine State occurred in several sectors, with education and health care posting the largest decline, down 11,000 jobs. Given the long-term strength of this sector (up more than 6.4 percent since the end of 2008), we are not reading too much into a one-month dropoff. Other sectors shedding jobs in January were government (down 8,100 jobs), professional business services (down 6,400 jobs), and construction as well as trade/transportation/utilities (both losing a net 6,200 jobs). Only information services and manufacturing posted monthly net gains in employment: they were up 1,800 and 500 jobs, respectively.

There was no pattern in geographic terms with regard to the state's January job losses. Daytona, Orlando, Pensacola, St. Lucie/Fort Pierce, and Punta Gorda posted the largest monthly declines in percentage terms. Naples—the metro area in Florida that lost more jobs on a percentage basis than any other in Florida during the recession—saw a 1.8 percent increase in January employment.

Let's put the state's January employment report in perspective. Florida posted monthly employment gains in each month during the second half of 2011, averaging more than 14,000 net new jobs per month over that period, and while January's losses wipe out over half of those gains, one month's worth of data should not lead to conclusions that the job rebound there has stalled. It is also important to keep in mind that original estimates of Florida employment in January 2010 and January 2011 were negative but were later revised up, so there may be some seasonal factors that are affecting the state's reading of January employment.

So far in this post, I've been discussing data collected by the BLS's Current Employment Survey, also referred to as the Establishment Survey, which—as the name implies—is a monthly survey of business establishments. This survey measures the number of people on businesses' payrolls. The BLS also produces the Household Survey, which is—again, as the name implies—a survey of the number of workers in individual households. The BLS derives measures of unemployment from this survey, but it also includes estimates of the number of people who are employed. For Florida, January's Household Survey showed gains, indicating a decline in the state's unemployment rate from 9.9 percent in December 2011 to 9.6 percent in January. It also estimated that total employment actually rose by nearly 22,000 and that the number of unemployed fell by just over 28,000.

Finally, the majority of our business contacts in Florida have been relatively upbeat in 2012. Even in southwest Florida—in many ways, the hardest-hit area in the Sixth District during the recession—contacts noted that economic activity there has shown recent improvement. Taken as a whole, we do not see the state's January employment data as the start of a new downward trend. But we will be watching the data and probing our contacts for signs of a slowdown.

Photo of Michael Chriszt By Mike Chriszt, an assistant vice president in the Atlanta Fed's research department

March 16, 2012 in Employment , Florida | Permalink


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