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Tampa Bay-Lakeland
Business Observer Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2011 11 years ago

Unemployment down in metros

New data show lower unemployment rates — but few net job increases.

Each of Southwest Florida's three major metro areas — Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, and Cape Coral-Fort Myers — saw its unemployment rate decrease in May, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, released this morning.

But the decreases appear to be driven by a shrinking labor force, rather than job gains.

In Cape Coral-Fort Myers, the labor force is estimated to have shrunk from 279,200 in May 2010 to 272,200 in the same month this year, a difference of 7,000. But unemployment is down by just 4,400, from 33,900 unemployed to 29,500.

The net effect on the unemployment rate is a decrease from 12.1% to 10.8% in May 2011. But the data suggest the decrease was caused by people either leaving the area or giving up their search for a job, rather than a spate of new hiring.

The same events appear to have taken place in North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, where the unemployment rate went down from 11.4% to 10.3% over the year, even though labor force decreases outpaced decreases in unemployment.

In contrast, the data suggest Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater saw significant jobs growth. Even though the market's labor force decreased by about 1,000 people over the year, unemployment is down by nearly 12,000. Thus, Tampa Bay's latest unemployment rate of 10.5% might have been achieved through new hiring.

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