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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 11, 201901:11 PM EST

Jacksonville's unemployment rate remains under 4 percent

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Job growth slowed in the metro area during the final quarter of 2018.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate rose in January, according to a report Monday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity that showed the labor market was not as strong in late 2018 as first thought.

The jobless rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area rose from 3.1 percent in December to 3.8 percent in January, a month when unemployment normally rises as businesses cut back staff after the holidays.

The state agency does not adjust the Jacksonville data for seasonal factors like that. However, the University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project said when the data is seasonally adjusted, it actually shows Jacksonville’s unemployment rate was unchanged from December to January at 3.42 percent.

The January data is delayed every year to give the Department of Economic Opportunity time to revise the previous year’s data with updated information.

The new data released Monday shows Jacksonville’s unemployment rate was slightly higher than previously thought in the final months of 2018 and job growth was somewhat slower.

The initial reports showed the area’s unemployment rate dipped below 3 percent from September through November before a slight uptick in December, but the revised data shows the jobless rate steady at 3.1 percent from September through December.

Revised data from Jacksonville area business payrolls show a big slowdown in job growth in the final three months of the year. After the year-over-year growth rate peaked at 4.1 percent in September, it dropped to 1.5 percent in October, 0.6 percent in November and 1.3 percent in December.

The Department of Economic Opportunity said Jacksonville had a net gain of 7,500 jobs from January 2018 through January 2019, a 1.1 percent growth rate.

Several industry sectors had significant job losses in the 12-month period. Trade, transportation and utilities had a net loss of 1,900 jobs, or 1.3 percent, and the financial activities sector lost 1,000 jobs, or 1.5 percent.

Retail trade had a big loss of jobs in the December-January period, as expected after the holidays. But the sector had a net loss of 1,300 jobs, or 1.5 percent, since January 2018.

The construction sector, which had been reporting strong growth for much of last year, had a net gain of just 900 jobs in the 12-month period, or 2 percent.

The best growth came in the education and health services sector which added 2,500 jobs, or 2.4 percent.

Jacksonville’s job growth rate lagged behind Florida’s statewide growth rate of 2.4 percent in the 12 months through January.

However, Jacksonville’s unemployment rate was one of Florida’s lowest, with only three of the state’s 24 metropolitan areas registering a lower rate in January.

Florida’s statewide unemployment rate rose by 0.1 point to a seasonally adjusted 3.4 percent in January.

UNF economist Albert Loh thinks the labor market was better than it appeared in the January data.

Albert Loh

“Had we not had the partial government shutdown, we would have had better numbers,” he said.

Duval County’s unemployment rate jumped by 0.7 points to 3.9 percent without seasonal adjustment, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Even after seasonal adjustment, the county’s rate still rose from 3.12 percent in December to 3.93 percent in January, Loh said. But he thinks that reflects the federal government shutdown.

“We have a bigger government sector in Duval County” than surrounding counties, he said.

With the shutdown over, Loh is expecting to see improvement in the labor market in the February data.

As the Department of Economic Opportunity resumes its normal schedule, the February report will be released March 22.

 

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