Monday, April 02, 2007

Orlando Job Growth # 1 in Florida

Buoyed by modest yet better-than-expected job growth in the construction industry, Metro Orlando led Florida to healthy employment gains in February, according to data released Friday by the state Agency for Workforce Innovation.

Metro Orlando added 31,500 jobs in the 12 months that ended Feb. 28, the largest employment gain of any metro area in the state, including Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, which added 28,900 jobs during the year.Overall, Florida's work force reached 8.08 million, or 134,700 jobs more than reported in February 2006.

The statewide unemployment rate was 3.3 percent in February compared with the national rate of 4.5 percent. Metro Orlando's preliminary unemployment rate for February was 3.1 percent, unchanged from February 2006 but slightly better than the revised January rate of 3.3 percent.

There were 5,300 more construction jobs statewide in February than a year earlier, a seemingly small increase of 0.8 percent but still a nice surprise, said Ossama Mikhail, an economist at the University of Central Florida.

While many experts last year were predicting a decline in construction jobs because of the weak housing market, "construction in hotels, shopping centers, and state and local government projects are offsetting the decline in residential construction," Mikhail noted.

As he views it, any gain in construction jobs, even a slight one, was positive news for the state as well as Central Florida.

Mikhail further credited the region's efforts to diversify beyond the leisure and hospitality industries, which has allowed Metro Orlando to take advantage of the strong statewide gains in professional-and-business services (38,700 jobs, or a 2.9 percent annual increase) and education-and-health services (26,400 jobs, or a 2.7 percent annual increase). Courtesy Orlando Sentinel.