Minimum-Wage Jobs Leading Florida's Recovery

A new study found the biggest sources of minimum-wage jobs also are leading Florida’s hiring rebound.
by | September 4, 2012

Florida's employment recovery hasn't brought back many well-paying jobs.

That's the conclusion of a new study timed for Labor Day showing the gaps of the Sunshine State's slow but unmistakable bounce back in hiring. And it reflects a national trend, driven largely by the ripple effects of the collapsed housing market.

The three industries that account for 63 percent of all minimum-wage jobs in Florida -- hospitality, retail and healthcare -- also have been leading the recovery, according to the study by Florida International University's Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.

Meanwhile, two sources of better-paying jobs -- construction and government -- have been in retreat during the recovery.

Construction hiring is down about 50 percent from past peaks, a loss of 270,000 jobs. With property-tax revenue down, governments also have been cutting their payrolls.

"In other recessions, public jobs kept growing during the downturn and the recovery," said Bernardo Oseguera, an author of the study. He said the loss of about 41,000 government jobs in Florida since 2007 put a "big brake on the recovery." Not to mention the decline in government spending in the private sector.

"When you build a school," he said, "you create a lot of jobs." Despite regaining about 180,000 payroll positions in the last three years, Florida is still down nearly 700,000 jobs from peak hiring in 2007.

A similar study by the National Employment Law Project found low-wage jobs made up 21 percent of the losses during the recession, but 58 percent of the regained jobs during the recession. High-wage jobs remain in balance: 19 percent of the losses, and 20 percent of the gains. But mid-wage jobs took the biggest hit: 60 percent of the losses during the recession, and only 22 percent of the recovery gains.

That's not typical of a recovery, and speaks to the severe losses in the construction industry, said Anastasia Christmana senior policy analyst with the NELP. "The construction sector accounts for a large chunk of mid-wage jobs,'' she said.

Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida, noted Florida saw an early rebound in tourism and retail jobs as consumer spending crept back. But business spending remains down, which is holding back hiring in better paying professional jobs. Those should return as the economy rebounds. But the construction jobs are another matter.

"Those construction jobs that were lost -- many of them aren't coming back,'' Snaith said.

(c)2012 The Miami Herald

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