Local News

Getting Floridians back to work

SEBRING - The Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, but it’s been an unusual four-year recovery with consumer spending, housing and construction inexplicably dragging bottom ever since.
It’s the same with employment. The seasonally unadjusted jobless rate has dipped to 7.2 percent, but Heartland Workforce President Roger Hood was unsure Tuesday exactly where those jobs have been coming from.
“I’ve asked my staff the same question,” Hood said. “We don’t have a total answer. Agriculture has pumped us upward.”
Hardee and DeSoto counties are showing 6.8 percent numbers, lower than Florida’s 7.5 and 8.1 percent around the U.S.
By industry in the tri-county region of DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands, leisure and hospitality has hired 175 employees, natural resources and mining has added 42, construction has added 59, transportation-warehousing-utilities has added 65 when comparing September 2012 with the previous year.
However, manufacturing is down 129, education and health services is down 237, government is down 508, and financial activities have lost 84 jobs. All that while adding 52 to the population column.
At the same time, Hood’s numbers pointed to a $35 annual wage decrease, while Florida salaries are $738 higher.
After snowbirds left in March, doctor’s offices and health facilities laid off workers, so unemployment numbers may go up in the next few months, said Blanca Llano, manager of the Highlands career center.
“If we don’t find them new jobs,” she said.
Florida's 7.5 unemployment rate is the lowest since the fall of 2008, continuing a recovery from joblessness that reached 12 percent at its peak in late 2010. The March rate was down from a revised 7.8 percent in February and down from 8.9 percent a year ago.
Florida also remained below the most recent figure for national employment, a benchmark that shows Florida's recovery may finally be speeding up after months of lagging behind the nation.
In addition to being good news for job seekers, the latest data allow Gov. Rick Scott to claim his effort is working to put the state back to work – his pledge when running for governor in 2010.
"In a little over two years since I’ve taken office, we’ve created more than 320,000 private sector jobs – and we are now closing in on the halfway point to our goal of creating 700,000 jobs in seven years," Scott said in a release. “These numbers prove that it's working in Florida and our families have opportunities to live their version of the American Dream in the Sunshine State. In Florida, our economy is turning around because we focus every day on creating new jobs for our families."
The unemployment rate in the nation as a whole in March was 7.6 percent.
Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, continued to have the lowest jobless rate in the state at 3.8 percent, while Hendry County remained at 10 percent unemployment, worst in the state.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this story

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