Flagler County’s unemployment rate continued to improve in November, falling to 8.2 percent, the fourth successive monthly improvement and the lowest rate since the Great Recession as Florida’s rate, too, fell in November, matching the national rate of 5.8 percent.
But Flagler’s unemployment rate this time was driven down mostly by a shrinking labor force rather than an improvement of the number of people holding jobs. The labor force shrank by 505, a 1.4 percent decrease, over the previous month, and now stands marginally above its level of a year ago. The labor force totals 35,269 in Flagler.
The number of people with jobs also fell significantly, by 430, a 1.3 percent decline from October. The number of unemployed people, however, fell by just 75, to a total of 2,874 in the county. Flagler remains the county with the second-highest unemployment rate in the state, after Hendry County’s 9.7 percent, but the Palm Coast metropolitan area is still leading the state in that category.
Florida’s unemployment rate hasn’t been this low since May 2008, when it was 5.7 percent. The state added 41,900 jobs in November, for a total of 229,900 net jobs for the year. Some 556,000 Floridians remain unemployed in the state. The figure does not include discouraged workers who have either quit looking for work or are no longer classified as unemployed by the state. When discouraged workers and workers employed part-time involuntarily–that is, people whose work hours have been cut back or who haven’t been able to find full time work–are counted, the state’s unemployment and underemployment rate stands at 13.4 percent one of the highest in the nation.
Nevertheless, Gov. Rick Scott today took credit for the job creation, saying he’d made good on his promise to create 700,000 jobs in four year instead of seven. “Four years ago, we unveiled an ambitious plan to fix Florida’s economy and turn the state around,” he said in a statement. “Our goal was to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. Today our goal was reached three years early, with 715,700 private-sector jobs created in Florida since December 2010. I applaud our job creators across the state who sacrifice and work hard to create new jobs. Every job impacts a family and we will keep working each day to make Florida the world’s number one destination for jobs.”
Scott is overstating the victory considerably, as the Tampa Bay Times’s Politifacts noted. In 2010, the fact-checking organization reported, “Scott had actually promised 700,000 on top of normal growth, which means 1.7 million total. He’s also ignoring tens of thousands of employees cut from government payrolls over the past four years. […] During the 2010 campaign, economists said Florida would add jobs anyway as the state rebounded from the Great Recession. Scott promised the 700,000 would be in addition to that growth, an assertion he denied saying after being elected, despite his answer being recorded and widely reported. PolitiFact Florida, however, is holding him to that 1.7 million number because that’s what he promised on the campaign trail.”
In sum, Politifacts reported, “If you take out the 19,700 government jobs from the 715,700 private-sector positions Scott is touting, you end up with 696,000 total jobs.”
The majority of jobs Floridians are finding are at the lower end of the wage scale, or below what’s considered a living wage. A year ago, the Seattle-based Alliance For A Just Society reported a study that 64 percent of Florida’s job openings pay less than a living wage.
This week, the Census Bureau reported that Flagler County’s poverty rate jumped from 10 percent in 2007, when the Great Recession began, to 14 percent today.
Some highlights from this month’s jobs report: In November, Florida’s 24 regional workforce boards reported more than 33,900 Floridians were placed in jobs. An individual who receives employment and training assistance through a CareerSource Center and finds a job within 180 days–even if it’s for a single hour during the month–is deemed a placement and may be reported by a regional workforce board. Of these individuals, 6,779 previously received jobless benefits. In 2014 to date, more than 377,500 individuals have been placed into jobs through the regional workforce boards, including more than 23,000 veterans. In 2013, more than 479,000 Floridians were placed in jobs, with 135,384 former claimants finding employment.
Florida job postings compiled by the Help Wanted OnLine data series from The Conference Board showed 279,394 openings in November 2014. According to the quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey that project hiring intentions, 22 percent of businesses surveyed expected to hire more workers in the first quarter of 2015.
Home sales remain robust as the backlog of existing homes on the market is down by 33.7 percent from December 2011, according to Florida Realtors. Florida median home prices were up 4.6 percent over the year in October 2014.