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Florida unemployment rate drops to 6.4 percent

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Updated: 12/21/2013 9:04 am
PALM BEACH, Fla. (PBP) -- Florida’s unemployment rate continued its downward march in November, as job growth kept on a modest pace for the year but the workforce contracted.

Staying below the national average, Florida’s unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points to 6.4 percent as 6,100 jobs were added to payrolls, the Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday. The U.S. rate fell the same amount to 7 percent in November. This time last year, the state lagged the nation.

Over the past year, private employers in the state created 188,100 jobs, offset some by cuts of 5,000 government jobs. Nearly 600,000 people continue to look for work in Florida.

“We’re starting now to really grow at the level we should be growing and gaining back some of the lost output,” said economist Tony Villamil, business dean at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens. “We’re headed in the right direction.”

However, the labor pool shrank and labor force participation is at record lows, signs that the unemployment rate is masking a continuing job shortage. University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith said an important rate is the U6, which was 14.6 percent in Florida as of September. It counts discouraged workers and those working part-time but wanting more hours as well as the unemployed.

“It’s important to look beyond that headline unemployment rate to get a sense of what’s going on in the labor market,” he said.

Businesses are still hesitant to hire, and there’s no clear signal that the economy will take off in 2014, Snaith said.

“The enigma for this recovery is we’ll see a burst of data look strong for a quarter or two, then slip back into malaise,” he said. “The pattern is likely to persist in 2014.”
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