Harper: Yearly Job Growth In Northwest Florida Trends Upward

Mar 20, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses U.S. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s first press conference on Capitol Hill. “It’s steady as she goes for Janet Yellen,” says Harper. He says it wasn’t notable for any change in policy, but for the same rookie error made by her predecessors Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. “She made the mistake of being too direct in a response to a reporter’s question, and that sent the financial markets into a bit of a tizzy.”  

Dr. Rick Harper
Credit University of West Florida

Meantime, the Fed is still on track for continuing the federal stimulus, but with plans to taper it by $10 billion down to $55 billion. And, according to Yellen, the Fed is also looking to move away from the specific benchmark of 6.5 percent unemployment for increasing long-term interest rates.

Meantime, a report out this week shows the unemployment in Florida dropped slightly in January to 6.1 percent, despite the net loss of 2,600 jobs during the month. “The really good part of this report for me was looking at the Northwest Florida metro areas. Pensacola, year over year (from January 2013 to January 2014) actually grew by 4,200 jobs,” Harper says. That’s a 12-month increase of 2.2 percent and that matches the state job growth rate. He adds that the Fort Walton Beach metro area added 3,400 new jobs in the past year.

And, a look at the index of leading indicators for Florida, it continues to be strong, “so the picture is actually slightly rosier than what we’ve talked about over the last number of months.”

Meantime, the unemployment rate among military veterans is coming down.  But, for younger veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan the jobless rate remains at 9 percent, which is higher than the overall national unemployment rate of 6.6 percent. Harper says that’s one of the main reasons the Florida Legislature has passed the Florida GI Bill, which includes training provisions and incentives for entrepreneurship for veterans.

Finally, Harper weighs in on the ST Aerospace job fair and recruitment event held this week at Pensacola State College. The company plans to create 300 jobs, with an average salary of $41,000, when it begins operation at Pensacola International Airport in 2015.

Dr. Rick Harper is director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement. He’s currently serving as Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the Florida Senate.  rharper@uwf.edu