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Palm Beach County jobless rate falls to another record low

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 1/24/2020 By Jeff Ostrowski, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

Palm Beach County unemployment hit another all-time low in December, a month when the jobless rate dropped to 2.7%, the state's labor department said Friday.

That's below the previous all-time low of 2.8%, a mark achieved in November. Rock-bottom unemployment locally and nationally poses challenges for employers of all stripes, and it has pushed wages higher.

##IFRAME_1##In one example, Bank of America, the largest financial institution in Palm Beach County, has raised its minimum wage to $20 an hour from $17, said Fab Brumley, head of the bank's operations in the county.

"We find that that livable wage is very important," Brumley said.

The public sector led hiring in Palm Beach County, adding 3,000 jobs over the past year, partly reflecting the ramp-up for the 2020 Census. The financial industry added 2,100 positions, and construction employers expanded by 1,600 positions compared with December 2018.

More than 720,000 people were counted as employed in the county last month. Fewer than 20,000 were officially out of work.

To find scarce workers, employers have been scouring job fairs and scouting social media. Bosses also have raised pay and sweetened benefits such as paid parental leave, employment experts say.

Palm Beach County's job growth remained tepid, continuing a trend that has persisted during the 10-year rebound from the Great Recession. While Florida's labor market added jobs at a 2.4% pace, the growth rate in Palm Beach County was just 0.9%.

The statewide unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to a seasonally adjusted 3%, a new record. Miami-Dade County, the state's largest labor market, had an unemployment rate of just 1.8%, tied for lowest in the state.

Even Florida's weakest labor markets posted jobless rates that economists once considered full employment. Hendry County had the state's highest unemployment, at 4.6%.

Continuing a trend of a shortage of workers, CareerSource Palm Beach County said its database of jobs once again had more openings than there were unemployed people in the county.

Among the most plentiful openings are jobs for registered nurses and retail workers.

Amid a decade-long economic expansion, unemployment rates have plunged nationally and in Florida. The U.S. jobless rate was 3.5 percent in December, matching a 50-year low.

As employers vie for workers, wage growth has begun to pick up. The average wage earned by American workers increased 2.9 percent from December 2018 to December 2019, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

jostrowski@pbpost.com

@bio561

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©2020 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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