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A strong job market now, so why are these two owners worried?

Two men behind a stand speak to a woman and a man, next to a large sign about the medical industry.
Marta Lavandier
Diego Osorio, center, with ChenMed, talks to a job seeker at the Venture Miami Tech Hiring Fair Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Miami. September's jobs report showed a surprising increase in hiring in key sectors for Florida, including health care.

Jeff Lozama hopes his company is one of those adding jobs this month. He is president at CMS International Group in Miami. The company installs windows and doors for office buildings, condominiums and hotels.

“We are looking for another half a dozen more folks for the projects. We have about three or four projects that are going on simultaneously. So we will need the workforce for it,” he said.

Jeff Lozama, president of CMS International in Miami.
courtesy of Jeff Lozama
CMS International Pres. Jeff Lozama worries about construction hiring beginning in 2024.

The US job market has been incredibly resilient, adding hundreds of thousands of jobs each month, driving down the unemployment rate to historic lows. It has made it tough for some companies to find workers.

Lozama describes the hiring environment as “very difficult — there is a very thin list of qualified folks out there."

He has 28 full-time employees now. The half dozen new positions he’s creating pay between $22-$26 an hour, depending upon experience. The construction industry is a traditional source of strong employment in Florida during an expanding economy. However, job growth has slowed considerably since the springtime. Construction jobs grew by less than 1% in August compared to a year earlier.

Hiring has been hot even though the Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates for more than a year and a half. It’s made real estate more expensive and that makes Lozama a little worried about next year. “Entering the fourth quarter, we’re fine. But I'm very concerned about what the first quarter of next year is going to look like,” he said. Lozama is not planning for any layoffs.

The new jobs at CMS International aren’t included in the September jobs report released Friday by the federal government. It showed a surprising increase in hiring with companies adding 336,000 new jobs led by strength in sectors that are key to Florida's job market. The hospitality industry added 96,000 nationwide last month, including restaurant hiring, which has now returned to its pre-pandemic employment level. Health care jobs also added to the strong labor market in September.

a graph of construction employment in Florida
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Conchie Fernández’s company, CF Creative, added one job last month. She doesn’t pay health insurance or retirement benefits. She said it has gotten too expensive for her. Instead, she focuses on salaries and performance bonuses.

“It's hard to find people who can be flexible enough to take a job without health insurance. We were able to, but it took us a long time to get through interviews and find the right candidates for our framework,” she said.

CF Creative is a small business incubator and advisory firm concentrating on minority-owned businesses. Like most companies in Florida, it is small, with fewer than 10 employees. It’s based in Boca Raton, but Fernández’s newest employee, hired in September, lives in Jacksonville.

“We only got three resumes from Miami. I got a couple from Tampa, Clearwater, and then this person in Jacksonville. And she was a great fit. But it's telling of what the local market is,” she said.

What she’s referring to is that some areas of Florida have the highest inflation rates in the nation. And she worries it is driving some workers out of the sunshine state.

September jobs data for Florida will be released Oct. 20.

Conchie Fernández is the owner of CF Creative based in Boca Raton, FL.
courtesy of Conchie Fernández
CF Creative owner Conchie Fernández is based in Boca Raton. She worries South Florida's high cost of living leading to workers leaving the region.

Tom Hudson is WLRN's Senior Economics Editor and Special Correspondent.
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