Jacksonville jobs grow for first time in 3 years

2 10 2010

Jacksonville area private-sector jobs grew in August by about 200 over the August the year before — the first showing of positive growth since October 2007 — according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That good news, although small, is another indication that there’s been stabilization in the area’s job market since the free-fall of job losses that struck the area between December 2007 and September 2009. And looking at Jacksonville job market statistics since January 2000, another potentially bit of encouraging information can be observed: job force levels since September 2009 have mirrored the levels in the pre-boom period between March and September 2004.

University of North Florida economist Paul Mason said the intervening boom, during which the number of those employed in the Jacksonville area swelled by 11 percent between September 2004 and December 2006, when it hit a peak of 562,400, can be attributed to the industries that the real estate boom directly benefited. And in the 10.5 percent job market losses experienced between December 2007 and September 2009, the reverse was true in those industries, he said.

“I think you can put a great deal of emphasis on the growth in construction and home building, and there as also growth in financial services,” Mason said. “A good deal of those construction workers have simply left. As a consequence, it’s back down to where it was.”

The growth in August, Mason and strategic planning consultant Henry Luke agreed, was cyclical, but better than what was seen in August 2009 or August 2008.

“Things were strengthening some; we were drawing people in the workforce. I don’t think anything long-lasting caused that effect,” Mason said.

Luke said there’s usually labor market growth in August because summer is giving way toward back-to-school and holiday season ramp-ups. The reason 2010 looked better is because 2010 seems to be past the free-fall job losses seen in 2008 and 2009, he said.

“It seems to have stabilized over the last year. Has it stabilized totally? I don’t know if we know that,” Luke said. “I hope it will increase. I hope the Christmas season between now and the end of the year will show total gain year over year. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Mason said that any growth in Jacksonville’s job market will be slow and steady unless there is a large infusion of employment.

“I think in the future, you’re not going to see a climb unless you see an employer bring lots of jobs to Jacksonville,” he said.

Source: The Florida Times-Union

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