MIAMI (CBS4)-It’s a mix of good and bad news for South Florida’s jobless claims.

First-time unemployment claims for May continue to trend below where they were a year ago. That’s good news, suggesting continued improvements from the dark days of 2009 and 2010. But the improvement has slowed to a less robust pace.

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Nearly 18,000 new people filed for unemployment benefits in May in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, 4 percent more than in April but 12 percent less than in May 2010. Because hiring in South Florida fluctuates with the seasons — hotels and restaurants need fewer people as the summer approaches, for example — the year-over-year comparisons tend to give better readings on true changes in the hiring environment.

The year-to-year drop in May for the region was the weakest since January. Both March and April saw drops of more than 20 percent. The chart below shows the trends.

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The big test will come Friday, June 17, when Florida releases May employment figures at the county level.

A reversal in job gains will send waves of worry across South Florida, but continued progress will suggest South Florida’s economics (heavy on Latin American tourism and trade) are letting us outpace the national trends.

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