ORLANDO — Last month, Florida’s unemployment rate inched upward. The state lost a number of seasonal jobs in May.
Does that mark the beginning of a downturn in Florida’s economy? Probably not, a noted economist says.
Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida, said the loss of seasonal jobs last month, which contributed to a slight rise in the Sunshine State’s unemployment rate up.1 percent, doesn’t mark a return to a struggling labor market.
In fact, Snaith said, Florida appears on track to outpace the nation economically.
“Florida’s labor market recovery remains strong,” he said.
“The improved pace of payroll job creation in Florida continues to boost growth in the labor force,” he added. “This is an indication of a recovering labor market and will make further declines in the unemployment rate a more challenging proposition.”
The loss of seasonal jobs in May, he said, was a distortion in the overall pace of the state’s economic recover. Snaith, director of UCF’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, used the Walt Disney World movie “Frozen” as a metaphor for where the state and local economy are headed.
“ ‘Frozen,’ both the movie and the physical state of many in the northern U.S., boosted the number of tourists visiting Florida in the first four months of the year,” Snaith said. “This caused a surge of hiring in the leisure and hospitality sector that has been partially reversed by the spring thaw, resulting in a loss of 10,500 jobs in the sector this May.”
The drop in seasonal jobs, he added, followed an impressive gain of 30,100 seasonal jobs in the first four months of the year.
The downside, Snaith said, is it will be very challenging for the state to bring Florida’s unemployment rate down much further in the months ahead.
In May, the state’s jobless rate rose to 6.3 percent, close to the national average.
Florida was one of the hardest hit states in the national after the housing market collapsed in 2008. The collapse, and the resulting national recession, left Florida with one of the nation’s worst housing markets and one of the highest home foreclosure rates. The unemployment rate soared to 11 percent.
The state of the economy is a top issue in the state’s gubernatorial election this year. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, is claiming credit for the state’s improving labor market, and blaming his likely opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, for the economic collapse that happened under his watch. Despite that, Crist continues to lead Scott slightly in the polls. A Quinnipiac poll taken in April showed Crist with 48 percent and Scott with 38 percent.
Snaith is noted as a national expert in economics, forecasting, market sizing and economic analysis. He authors quarterly reports about the state of the economy.
Bloomberg News has named Snaith as one of the nation’s most accurate forecasters for his predictions about the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate, the Federal Funds rate.
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