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"Florida's Job Market Hottest in Nation" Study

State has country's 5 of the 10 best markets, Vegas and Phoenix runners-up.
By G. Scott Thomas
Updated: 2:08 p.m. ET Oct. 2, 2006

If you're looking for a new job, concentrate your search in Florida.

That state is home to five of the 10 hottest labor markets in America, according to a new Bizjournals study. Cape Coral-Fort Myers holds first place in the national rankings, while Sarasota-Bradenton, Orlando, Lakeland and Miami-Fort Lauderdale are also in the top 10.

These Florida markets rank high because they all enjoy strong job growth and low unemployment rates:
  • The workforce in Cape Coral-Fort Myers has expanded by 32.5 percent during the past five years, the fastest growth rate among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas. Sarasota-Bradenton is second in that category at 26.8 percent.
  • The five Florida markets have collectively added half-a-million jobs since 2001, led by gains of 194,900 jobs in Miami and 158,000 in Orlando.
  • Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Sarasota-Bradenton have the lowest unemployment rates in the national study group, 2.6 percent. The only non-Florida market below 3 percent is Boise, Idaho.

Bizjournals uses a nine-part formula to analyze the employment situations in the 100 major markets. The current ratings are based on midyear data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, covering the period from 2001 to the current year.

First place belongs to Cape Coral-Fort Myers, a Southwest Florida metro that has 230,000 jobs. A steady influx of new residents, coupled with a healthy tourism sector, are driving the rapid expansion of that employment base, which is growing by almost 1,000 jobs a month.

The two runners-up in Bizjournals' standings are No. 2 Las Vegas and No. 3 Phoenix, which have enjoyed consistently strong growth since 2002.

Las Vegas has boosted its employment by 25.6 percent in five years, the fastest rate posted by any market outside of Florida. Phoenix has added 271,900 jobs over the same period, the biggest gain in raw numbers for any metropolitan area.

Rounding out the top 10 in Bizjournals' rankings are Sarasota-Bradenton; Orlando; Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.; Lakeland, Fla.; Boise; Washington, D.C.; and Miami-Fort Lauderdale.

At the bottom of the standings is New Orleans, the coldest job market in America.

Hurricane Katrina, which battered the Gulf Coast last year, cost New Orleans roughly one-third of its employment base. The area has 188,600 fewer jobs now than five years ago, an astounding decline of 30.2 percent.

Close behind on the list of coldest markets are Detroit and San Jose, which have both suffered serious losses since 2001.

San Jose, reeling from the dot-com bust at the beginning of the decade, is still down 162,300 jobs from 2001. But it seems to have begun a small rebound, actually adding 3,000 jobs in the past year.

Detroit, heavily dependent on the auto industry, has been struggling because of high gas prices and an inventory backlog. It has lost 123,300 jobs during the past half-decade, including 13,000 in the past year alone.

The remaining markets in the bottom 10 are Dayton, Ohio; Lansing, Mich.; Rochester, N.Y.; Springfield, Mass.; Boston; Milwaukee and Worcester, Mass.

The 100 areas in the study group collectively have 92.4 million jobs, which is up 2.5 percent from 90.2 million five years ago.

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