Job data released Friday offered two hopeful signs, as Florida saw the largest increase in online job ads in the nation and employment rose across the U.S.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Florida's economy has picked up," said Mark Vitner, economist for Wells Fargo Securities.
Nationally, a report from the economist called the 163,000 job gains in July "surprisingly decent." A gain of 100,000 jobs was expected, and the news from the Labor Department sent U.S. stocks to their highest level since May.
Payroll rose in professional and business services, restaurants and bars, and manufacturing.
Florida led the nation in the increase of online "help wanted" ads from June to July, according to The Conference Board, a Washington, D.C., research group.
Registered nurses are in the highest demand. Statewide, there was a demand for 17,550 RNs in July compared to 14,063 a year ago. There's also demand for retail workers and supervisors, customer service representatives and truck drivers.
In the past year, job postings in Florida increased by nearly 13 percent.
Demand was strongest in Orlando, Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, the group said. In South Florida, help wanted ads increased by 3.2 percent in Miami, 2.7 percent in Fort Lauderdale and 3.6 percent in West Palm Beach.
Job listings in the state bottomed out in April 2009 with 151,251 ads.
South Florida economist J. Antonio Villamil said Florida is "still in good shape relative to the national economy."
In other job news Friday, U.S. unemployment ticked up to 8.3 percent in July, from 8.2 percent in June.
Villamil said the nation's economy should be growing at a clip of 200,000 to 250,000 jobs a month.
"That's why we're stuck at 8.3 percent. We're still growing but it's the blah economy. Very sluggish growth," he said.
The Federal Reserve said this week it is prepared to take new action if needed to boost growth.
Some economists forecast that the U.S. economy will expand through the end of the year, adding more jobs. But many say growth is limited because of uncertainty over Europe, government spending cuts and federal fiscal policy.
"People are playing defense instead of offense," Villamil said.
Still, the economy has added private sector jobs for 29 straight months, a total of 4.5 million jobs, according to the Labor Department.
Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement that Friday's employment report "provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression." But monthly numbers are volatile, he cautioned.
In Broward, employers with more than 200 job openings were Memorial Healthcare System, Staples and AT&T. In Palm Beach County, Tenet Health listed more than 700 job openings and St. Mary's Medical Center more than 300.
Hugo Rojas, 60, of Tamarac recently accepted a job as a bus driver for a senior living community. After being laid off from his warehouse manager job last year, Rojas said he is happy to have a job that offers health benefits and a retirement fund.
"I really needed the job. I'm very thankful," he said.
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