June 22nd, 2009 10:28 AM by Sherry Lee
By James Thorner, Times Staff Writer Posted: Jun 19, 2009 10:49 AM
With nearly 943,000 Floridians out of work in May, the state's unemployment rate vaulted to double digits, registering its highest mark since 1975.
Across the state, 10.2 percent of the work force was involuntarily idled in May, a half-point rise from April's unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.
Joblessness in the Tampa Bay area jumped to 10.6 percent, up from 10.2 percent in April. Just a year earlier, local unemployment stood at 5.9 percent. But the recession that began with the housing slump has been infecting formerly healthy industries like retail, engineering and publishing.
Will our job woes improve soon? Most economists think not. They assume that even when the economy turns up, job seekers returning to the market will keep the rate high.
"We're going to experience double-digit pain not just for a few months, but through the middle of 2011," said Sean Snaith, economist at the University of Central Florida. "Florida's labor market will be the ugly scar that is slow to fade."
Take heart: It could be worse. The U.S. Census and the Internal Revenue Service have identified hundreds of thousands of working-age Floridians leaving the state, many in search of work.
What was once our jobless problem is now the problem of Texas, Tennessee or North Carolina. You get an idea of how disproportionate the migration has been by rental truck rates charged by U-Haul.
A large moving van rented in Tampa and dropped off in Dallas costs $2,144. The same van driven from Dallas to Tampa costs $602. Dallas' unemployment rate is 7.1 percent vs. Tampa Bay's 10.6 percent.
"The migration is sizable. It's over 100,000 folks," said Wachovia economist Mark Vitner, who tracks Florida joblessness. "The gross migration numbers are huge."
That outmigration will slow, if only because unemployment nationally is reaching Florida levels, giving job hunters fewer options. Charlotte, N.C., once the gleaming jewel in the Sun Belt, is weighed down by unemployment of nearly 12 percent. The banking collapse is largely to blame.
The national unemployment rate was 9.4 percent in May, up from April's 8.9 percent. Economists like Vitner assume Florida's recession will persist even when economic healing begins nationally. Economic growth could return as early as this fall, but job creation often lags.
With the decline in construction across Florida, spinoff industries like home furnishings continue to take a beating. For example, hot tub maker DM Industries shut down its Opa-locka factory and satellite operations in Tampa. Tampa's Consolidated Bedding announced it was laying off 157 at its Spring Air mattress factory.
The recession has pushed the pain well beyond housing. Call centers, local government, hospitals, universities and newspapers have also been shedding workers.
The unemployment picture appears the same in every county around Tampa Bay, where the jobless totaled an estimated 139,866 in May.
Before a recovery takes root, the economy has to work off five excesses, Vitner said: home construction, consumer credit, international trade, financial services and commercial real estate.
"Those five areas are the biggest trouble spot and they're all more important to Florida than they are to the rest of the nation."
Joel Poelhuis of the Miami Herald contributed to this report.
These writers fail to mention the main excess - that of our many levels of government. During the BOOM years, municipalities and legislators were able to capture excessive property taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, bed taxes, and myriad other fees that enabled them to grow their budgets to enormous and unsustainable levels. Florida Tax Watch and grass-roots citizens groups were begging for restraint during the past several years as we watched this unconscionable spending spree happening.
But all levels of government continued to rake in unnecessary revenues and then look for ways to spend it. They engaged in questionable land deals and handed out massive pay raises and perks to each other and to their police, fire and teachers unions while people in the private sector were simply trying to hold on to their jobs. Now, the governments are crying about having to lay off workers and pointing a finger to private industry as if they are the single reason things went bad.
People need to wake up and see the real issue here. Our government is supposed to exist to serve the needs of the people. However, this is no longer the case. We now have a system of government that operates solely to provide for it's own continuation and growth. People are simply a revenue source, a way to pay for whatever governments want. This is backward. People must be the main focus of a society. Productivity of a free people is what funds government. From their bounty, people can then fund government which in turn funds community needs.
Not the other way around.