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The Atlanta Fed's SouthPoint offers commentary and observations on various aspects of the region's economy.

The blog's authors include staff from the Atlanta Fed's Regional Economic Information Network and Public Affairs Department.

Postings are weekly.

Are We There Yet?

If you’ve been reading the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Regional and State Employment and Unemployment press releases lately (and really, who hasn’t?), you may have noticed that Florida has been mentioned as one of the states with the fastest payroll growth. (In April, Florida had the third-largest payroll gain of any state in the nation, adding 34,000 payrolls across the state; this gain trailed only Texas, which added 64,100, and California, which gained 56,100 payrolls.) Indeed, during the last few months, the state’s payroll growth seems to have shifted into the next gear (see the chart).

Florida's Monthly Average Payroll Growth for Selected Time Periods

Florida has added just about 100,000 payrolls from January through April (97,900, to be exact), which seemed like a nice even number for an economic analyst to tear apart. Almost a third of Florida’s new payrolls so far in 2014 have come in the leisure and hospitality sector (see the chart). The professional and business services sector accounts for a little more than another quarter of the year-to-date job gains.

Sector Distribution of Florida's New Payrolls, January-April 2014 (SA, Thousands)

But still, a good bit left to go...
However, although the pace of payroll growth appears to be picking up for the state (and for the entire Sixth District as well; more on that shortly), in terms of the number of jobs there’s still quite a ways to go just to get back to where the state was prior to the recession. Florida’s payrolls peaked in March 2007 at just over 8 million; by December 2009, that figure was down to about 7.1 million. Incorporating April’s 34,000 new payrolls, the state sits at just shy of 7.8 million payrolls (see the chart).

Total Nonagricultural Payrolls: Florida (left) and Sixth District (right)

Between Florida’s last peak in payrolls and the level in April 2014, the state’s payroll gap is 274,000. Coincidentally, with eight months left in this year, if Florida’s payroll growth for the rest of 2014 continues at or slightly better than April’s pace, the state could ring in 2015 with a new level of peak employment.

For the Sixth District as a whole, the region is still down 444,000 payrolls from peak employment in March 2007, when the District had about 20.1 million payrolls. If April’s pace of aggregate District payroll growth (an increase of 62,400) held for the remaining eight months of the year, the Sixth District would also have a new level of peak employment by New Year’s Day.

Other highlights of the state employment report
Sixth District states added 62,400 payrolls during April, with 34,000 of those coming from Florida. Georgia had the second-largest gain within the Sixth District by adding 14,600 payrolls. Louisiana and Mississippi each added just under 5,000 payrolls (4,700 and 4,900, respectively), with Mississippi seeing its second month, with more than 4,000 jobs added each month since the U.S. Census surge in employment in 2010. Tennessee added 2,400 new payrolls, and Alabama saw 1,800 new payrolls.

The Sixth District aggregate unemployment rate ticked down to 6.4 percent in April, a result of declines in Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Rates of unemployment stayed the same in Georgia (7.0 percent) and Louisiana (4.5 percent) and ticked up in Alabama (from 6.7 percent to 6.9 percent; see the chart).

Unemployment Rates for Sixth District States, and Sixth District Aggregate

The next regional and state employment and unemployment report will be released Friday, June 20.

Photo of Mark CarterBy Mark Carter, a senior economic analyst in the Atlanta Fed’s research department