Florida Jobless Rate Still 12 Percent in December
Gov. Rick Scott calls numbers ‘unacceptable’
Around the State
Florida’s unemployment rate remained at 12 percent in December, leaving the Sunshine State with the same unemployment rate it started with at the beginning of 2010, and 2.6 percent above the national jobless rate of 9.4 percent.
The seasonally adjusted numbers released Friday by the state Agency for Workforce Innovation reveal Florida’s stagnating job sector, which analysts only expect to drop slightly in 2011. There are more than 1.1 million people out of work in Florida, from a labor force of more than 9.2 million. While the number of nonagricultural jobs is down 0.2 percent from November, there are 43,500 more jobs than in December 2009, a 0.6 percent increase in the year-over-year comparison.
“It was disappointing, but over the year we’re still up,” said AWI chief economist Rebecca Rust, who added that December was the sixth straight month of year-over-year job gains, after more than three years of monthly job losses.
December’s unemployment data are the last jobless figures that will be completely unconnected to Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, and the new governor reiterated Friday that job creation is his first priority.
“(Friday’s) report of a 12 percent unemployment rate for Florida in December means that more than 1.1 million Floridians are jobless. This is not acceptable. The numbers reaffirm my commitment to getting Florida back to work, and prove that we must put job creation first by making Florida the best place to do business,” Scott said.
The employment trends also followed those of the previous month, with the private education and health services industry and the leisure and hospitality industry driving the majority of Florida’s job creation. There were 34,500 more private education and health services jobs in December compared to a year ago, a 3.2 percent increase, and 33,900 more leisure and hospitality jobs, a 3.8 percent increase.
Ambulatory health care services drove the job gains in the health services sector, which was the only industry to maintain job growth through the recession. One positive sign for Florida is the resurgence of the leisure and hospitality sector, which experienced major losses during the recession but is bouncing back.
The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area is reaping the benefit of that resurgence, posting the most job gains out of Florida’s 22 metro areas in December with 11,100 more jobs than a year ago -- an increase of 1.1 percent.
Other sectors, however, continue to carry the specter of the recession, which weighs down the ability of Florida’s economy to recover. The construction industry lost 20,200 jobs last month in the year-over-year comparison (a 5.6 percent decline) and has given back more than half of its jobs since its peak in 2007. The industry’s decline is being felt throughout the state, but most heavily in Flagler and Hendry counties, which are tied for the worst unemployment rate in the state at 15.7 percent.
“These are both related to construction losses,” Rust said of Flagler and Hendry’s unemployment rates.
While Scott is intent on getting the private sector back to work, his campaign promises to cut the state work force by 5 percent could have their most immediate effect in areas with the lowest unemployment rates.
The Fort Walton-Destin and Gainesville metropolitan areas posted the lowest jobless rates among Florida cities with 8.3 percent, and Liberty County -- where the largest employer is a state prison -- was the lowest among the counties with a 7.7 percent jobless rate.
“All of these cities have a higher percentage of government work, whether it's state universities, state workers or a military base,” Rust said.
One area already feeling the trickle-down effects of layoffs related to the ending of a government program is the Space Coast, where the last shuttle launch will take place later this year. Layoffs began at government contractors earlier in 2010, and the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville metropolitan area lost 2,200 jobs in December.
“That’s due to professional business services related to the Space Center layoffs,” Rust said.
Reach Gray Rohrer at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.