BRADENTON – Sarasota and Manatee counties erased 46,000 jobs in the economic recession that began in 2007, according to newly compiled federal data.
Area strong on job growth, less so on wages
Sarasota County ranks high in job growth, but low in wage growth in a new report covering the country’s 323 largest counties.
The new report, issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, says the number of jobs in the county grew 1.4 percent during the year that ended March 31, ranking it 118th among the largest U.S. counties.
Nationally, job growth measured 1.3 percent during the period. Manatee County ranked 229th on the list.
Several urban areas in the state fared well in the report, including Collier County, which ranked 10th; Orange County, 56th; and Miami, 74th.
But wage growth in Sarasota County — 2.4 percent over the year-long period — lagged the U.S. rate of 5.2 percent. Overall, the county ranked 272nd among the nation’s largest counties.
Average weekly wages in the county were $722, or $37,544 per year, compared with the national average of $935, or $48,620.
Manatee ranked 188th in wage growth.
— Doug Sword
The combined two-county loss — nearly equivalent to the population of the City of Sarasota — means employment in Southwest Florida is nearly identical to what it was at the start of the last decade.
“Sarasota was more dramatically impacted than Manatee by the recession, but both were hit pretty severely,” said Chris Benner, an associate professor at the University at California Davis who analyzed U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
“It’s hard to overstate the level of the economic crisis,” said Benner, who conducted his study of information from 2007 to 2010 for the National Fund for Workplace Solutions, which is in turn working with CareerEdge, a Bradenton work force group trying to stimulate job growth.
Mireya Eavey, CareerEdge’s executive director, said the data is important because it provides a road map for targeting future growth sectors.
The local data emerges as federal revisions conclude that the U.S. recession from 2007 to mid-2009 — the longest and most severe in seven decades — crippled the economy even more than previously believed.
During that time, the total economy shrank 5.1 percent, according to Commerce Department figures released in late July. That decline, brought on by weak consumer demand, was among the largest in the 10 recessions that the nation has endured since the end of World War II.
Construction and manufacturing suffered the most in Southwest Florida during the recession.
Jobs in construction declined by 44 percent in Sarasota County, and 36 percent in Manatee County during the four-year period. Manufacturing jobs fell by 33 percent in Sarasota County, and 22 percent in Manatee County.
“These are big numbers we’re talking about, obviously,” Benner said.
Even in the recession, though, there were bright spots in both counties.
Health care and private educational services both grew at impressive clips, and have continued to add jobs as workers retrain or migrate into growing fields.
Education employment grew 29 percent in Sarasota County from 2007 to 2010 and by 116 percent in Manatee County. Health care was up by 7.2 percent in Sarasota County and by 5 percent in Manatee County.
Wages and salaries in health care have risen “rapidly,” Benner said, even as the sector becomes less centralized away from hospitals, which have traditionally been the largest industry employers.
Manufacturing, too, appears to be rebounding dramatically.
Kyle Stevens, a market research and project manager with Sarasota County’s Economic Development Corp., said 80 percent of the projects and 2,364 new jobs that the two counties have landed since October 2010 were manufacturing related.
Companies like fire truck maker Pierce Manufacturing and cabinet builder Adams Group have pushed the average wage paid by new companies to $48,000, Stevens said.
While he acknowledges that some jobs might never come back to this region, Benner is optimistic that recovery will happen — eventually.
“As dim as it seems now, amidst nearly 12 percent unemployment, as overall demand grows in the U.S. economy, jobs will come back to your region,” he said.