County unemployment numbers tick up, but not unexpectedly

St. Lucie County launched 2019 with a not-seasonally-adjusted non-agricultural unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, up from 3.9 percent in December.

Marcelo Dossantos, vice president of strategic initiatives at CareerSource Research Coast, sees no reason for worry.

“There’s a slight uptick from the December numbers, but you can chuck that up to the seasonal hires being laid off,” he said.

Dossantos is confident those laid-off seasonal workers found other employment quickly, and believes that will be reflected in the February employment report be out later this month. That 4.7 percent was an improvement to the start of 2018. January before last, the county started the year with a 5.1 percent not-seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate.

Dossantos said another number gives him confidence the employment picture will be bright for the foreseeable future. He said the employment rate is staying strong even as more people are working.

“The labor force has been increasing month after month,” he said. “There are more people moving in, and (local) people joining the labor force. It’s a combination of all.”

Locals joining the labor force include youths reaching working age and discouraged workers – those who want jobs, but stopped looking for more than 30 days – rejoining the labor force. The unemployment rate is based on those who can and say they want to work and have looked for jobs within the last 30 days. Nationally, the labor force participation rate increased from December to January from 63.1 to 63.2 percent.

The labor force for the entire CareerSource Research Coast region – St. Lucie, Indian River and Martin counties – grew by 7,700 workers to 285,200 over the year. The Port St. Lucie Metropolitan Statistical Area, St. Lucie and Martin, had an increase of 5,100 jobs from January to January. The two counties started this year with 154,300 jobs.

The strongest reported job growth over 2018 for the Port St. Lucie area was in mining, logging and construction. The area puffed up that industry sector 1,700 jobs, from 10,500 in January 2018 to 12,200 this January, a 16.2 percent increase. Dossantos said construction has had a difficult time attracting new talent fast enough.

“The Port St. Lucie MSA has the highest growth in construction in the state,” he said. “You have a huge spike in construction going on. We’ve been working with the Treasure Coast Builders Association. We’re creating more videos to encourage younger people to get into the construction trade.”

It’s not proving to be as easy as before to get youths to don steel-toed boots, Dossantos said. He said there could be numerous reasons behind that. One possibility is graduating high-school seniors were about 10 when the housing crash and severe recession started in 2007. Many likely have strong memories of it and fear getting into construction. Another reason, Dossantos said, is “nobody wants to work outside. It’s terrible.”

Part of that might be because local young people don’t have to work outside. Another industry sector that started 2019 thriving is the professional and business services. That sector added 1,400 jobs for a 7.5 percent increase over the year. Leisure and hospitality added 700 jobs, followed by education and health services adding 600. Manufacturing added 500 jobs, financial activities 300 and other services, which includes things such as car repair, 100.

The only industry sector that shed jobs (200) in the Port St. Lucie Area was trade, transportation and utilities.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released its January jobs report on March 11. Florida’s not-seasonally-adjusted non-agricultural unemployment rate shifted up from 3.3 percent in December to 3.9 percent in January. The nation went from 3.7 to 4.4 percent. However, both the state’s and the nation’s edged down from January 2018 to January 2019.

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