Palm Beach County’s labor market flirted with a record low in October, a month when unemployment fell to 3 percent.

That’s just above April’s all-time low jobless rate of 2.9 percent. Rock-bottom unemployment poses challenges for retailers and delivery companies ramping up for the holidays.

“With unemployment at 3 percent, the availability of the people with the skills that are needed is a big issue,” said Joan Greenberg, regional director at staffing firm Manpower.

To find scarce workers, employers are scouring job fairs and scouting social media, Greenberg said. Bosses also have raised pay and sweetened benefits such as paid parental leave, said Randy McDermott, metro market manager for Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast at staffing firm Robert Half International.

“It’s just really hard to find good people,” McDermott said. “The unemployment is so low and there’s so many jobs out there. Competition for people is pretty fierce.”

In October, there were more than 745,000 Palm Beach County residents counted as part of the official work force. Just 22,487 were unemployed, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Friday.

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“It’s the best time in years to look for your first job or advance to a better one,” said Steve Craig, president and chief executive of the nonprofit CareerSource Palm Beach County.

Continuing a trend toward a shortage of workers, CareerSource said its database of jobs once again had more openings than there were unemployed people in the county. Among the most plentiful openings are jobs for registered nurses and retail workers.

The government sector was the biggest gainer among Palm Beach County industries. It added 3,200 positions over the past year.

Professional and business services added 2,400 jobs, while education and health services grew by 2,000 jobs and construction employers expanded by 1,700 positions compared to October 2018. Manufacturers added 300 jobs in the county.

Amid a decade-long economic expansion, unemployment rates have plunged nationally and in Florida. The U.S. jobless rate was 3.6 percent in October, just above the 50-year low set the month before. And Florida unemployment stood at just 3.2 percent last month.

Wage growth has begun to pick up, too. The average wage earned by American workers increased 3 percent from October 2018 to October 2019, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Among Florida’s 67 counties, unemployment ranged from a low of 2 percent in Monroe County to a high of 5.8 percent in rural Hendry County.

jostrowski@pbpost.com

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