Palm Beach County unemployment falls, but job creation slow

Palm Beach County unemployment falls, but job creation slow

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A construction worker toils at the Southern Boulevard Bridge connecting West Palm Beach and Palm Beach in April. (Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post)

In another month of mixed signals from Palm Beach County’s job market, the region’s unemployment rate fell in March even as job growth remained weak.

Palm Beach County unemployment dipped to 3.6 percent in March, down from 3.7 percent in February, the state labor department said Friday.

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“If you have skills, it’s very easy for you to find a job,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services. “It’s a good time to be a worker, but it’s a difficult time for employers to find labor.”

Perhaps partly because of robust employment conditions, Palm Beach County’s job growth was tepid. Employers expanded positions at a pace of just 1 percent over the past year, well below the statewide rate of 2.1 percent. And that marks a slowdown from the 1.3 percent pace of job growth Palm Beach County posted in February.

“Part of it is the tightness in the labor market,” Faucher said. “There are issues of housing affordability and that sort of thing. It’s more of an inability of businesses to find employees than a lack of demand for labor.”

However, other parts of the state managed to combine rock-bottom unemployment with robust job growth. The Orlando metro area saw jobs expand by 3.5 percent over the past year, even as the Orange-Kissimmee region’s unemployment rate was 3.3 percent.

And Jacksonville posted 3.1 percent job growth despite an unemployment rate of just 3.5 percent.

Construction remains a bright spot in Florida’s labor market. The construction sector was the fastest-growing industry, adding positions at a 6.3 percent clip statewide over the past year.

Construction employment also was strong in Palm Beach County, where houses are under construction in the new city of Westlake and at Arden west of Lion Country Safari. The two projects mark a return to the large-scale home-building, which fell dormant after the housing crash. And construction workers have been building apartment complexes such as the Park-Line and Broadstone in downtown West Palm Beach, The Bristol condo tower on Flagler Drive and the new Southern Boulevard bridge between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach.

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