Flagler County’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in November, up from 5.6 percent in October. It was the fourth straight month that the local unemployment rate has risen, the longest such streak since the Great Recession, albeit in relatively small increment. But the rate now matches its level of a year ago.
The streak in increasing unemployment is echoed by an equally suggestive streak: five straight declines in the number of house sales closing in Flagler County, going back to May’s post-recession peak of 259 sales. Pending sales are also down, as are new listings, according to the latest tallies from the Flagler County Association of Realtors.
Florida’s unemployment rate was also back up to 4.9 percent, and it hasn’t seen a decline in seven months.
Whether the numbers add up to the diminishing chirps of the canary in the coal mine is an open question. There are a couple of ways to look at the November unemployment report for Flagler and the state. One way is to see it strictly through the unemployment rate, which suggests that the economy has reached capacity, leveling off from its steady improvements over the previous three years.
Another way is to look at the more encouraging actual number of jobs, the unemployed and the labor force.
From that perspective, and while Flagler’s unemployment rate has in fact fluctuated within the narrow 5 percent range all year, the county has also seen a healthy increase of 1,710 workers in the labor force over the year, a 3.9 percent increase. That means working-age people are moving in, more often than not bringing families and purchasing power, though perhaps not enough purchasing power to afford the kind of homes for sale: the median price exceeded $200,000 in Flagler in September, and rose to $206,000 in October, a nearly 15 percent increase over the year even though the supply of homes hasn’t changed much: it’s been in the range of 4.5 months’ worth (or higher) all year.
One telling detail: the biggest drop in inventory over the year occurred in less expensive homes. For homes selling between $150,000 and $200,000, the inventory dropped 24 percent over the year. The number of homes selling for less–at between $100,000 and $150,000–dropped even more steeply, by 33 percent, though from a smaller starting inventory. What those numbers show is that while new workers are moving to the county, their income tends to be at the lower end of the scale. That’s largely reflected by the sort of economic activity that draws the most attention in the county. It’s still predominantly the lesser-paying retail and hospitality industries rather than higher-wage sectors.
It’s also reflected by the sort of new jobs in Florida as a whole, where in November the largest gains were in retail, trade and tourism, the latter adding 15,500 jobs and accounting for half the total gains of private sector jobs in the month. Manufacturing lost 2,000 jobs, finance and insurance sectors lost 1,500, and professional and technical services lost 4,700 jobs.
So while the unemployment rate has been static for the past year, employment has not: it has increased by 1,635–that is, 1,635 more people who live in Flagler County hold jobs, though those jobs could be in Flagler or any other surrounding counties, and they are not necessarily full-time jobs: as jobs statistics go, a person needs to have logged a single hour of work in a two-week period to be registered as employed. Still, there’s been a 4 percent increase in the number of Flagler County residents with jobs over the past year.
The number of unemployed people is not declining anymore, however: it has increased by about 75 over the year, to 2,551.
the full November unemployment report is below.