Business

Florida Unemployment Falls to Lowest Mark Since 2008

By: Jim Turner | Posted: November 16, 2012 11:00 AM

Unemployment Line

Credit: Tony Strong - Shutterstock

Unemployment in Florida fell to 8.5 percent in October, the lowest mark the Sunshine State has seen since December 2008.

The mark -- representing the number of people out of work but actively seeking employment -- is down from 8.7 percent a month earlier. Florida continues to lag behind the nation, which has a 7.9 percent unemployment rate.

The new numbers, released Friday, estimate that the state added 12,100 new private-sector jobs in October.

“In October, 12,100 more Floridians found employment in the private sector and the incomes that allow them to provide for their families, particularly with the holidays approaching,” Gov. Rick Scott stated in a release.
 
“We are creating an environment that fosters job creation, economic development and provides a skilled work force. My No. 1 goal is to create jobs for Florida families and get this state back to work. There is still more work that needs to be done, but I’m confident we’re on the right path.”

The numbers are the first released since the general election and as the state enters a period of political watching in Florida that will be dominated by Scott’s re-election effort.

One area that any opposition campaign will focus upon is Scott’s 2010 campaign promise to create 700,000 new jobs in seven years.

With the October numbers, Florida has seen 174,599 private-sector jobs created since December 2010.

The Florida Economic Estimating Conference has estimated the state is on pace to grow by 900,000 jobs by 2018.

Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith credited President Obama and Democratic policies for the state’s economic growth.

"President Obama's policies of growing the economy and helping businesses create jobs are leading our country out of the greatest recession since the Great Depression -- it's why Floridians turned out in record numbers to deliver this state for the president for a second time,” Smith stated in a release.

“Floridians know that growing our economy starts with investing in the middle class, a center point of which is investing in schools to create the next generation of new, good paying jobs. It is unfortunate that under Rick Scott, Florida's economy continues to lag behind the rest of the nation. We hope that the governor will take his cue from the president's economic successes and change his priorities -- which thus far have valued tax giveaways to corporate special interests over investments in the schools and infrastructure needed to grow our state's economy for the middle class."

The state continues to see its biggest gains in professional and business services, transportation, utilities, private education and health care.
Government jobs and construction-related fields continue to shed positions.

“The collaborative efforts between DEO and our work force partners across the state continue to produce positive results in both finding opportunities for job seekers and providing them the resources they need to be successful in their new positions,” Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Hunting F. Deutsch stated in a release.

“We are always looking for new and innovative ways to put Floridians back to work and provide a skilled and talented work force to every employer interested in moving, expanding or starting their business in Florida.”

The DEO blamed the state’s continued slow economic recovery on:

• High corporate tax rates and burdensome regulations.

• Businesses holding down costs and hiring due to weak consumer demand.

• Business efficiency prioritized over economic expansion; corporations holding cash.

• More unemployed persons than job openings.

• Mismatched skills of the unemployed relative to job openings at current wage levels; low employer recruiting intensity.

• Less worker mobility due to the housing market.

• Longer spells of unemployment making re-employment more difficult; decline in hours of job search.

• Higher worker productivity due to technological improvements, impacting hiring.

• Tight credit conditions and frugal consumer spending.

• High rates of home foreclosures and low home values making it difficult to refinance/sell.

• European sovereign debt crisis and European economic downturn.

• Slower economies in emerging markets (China, India, and Brazil) impacting U.S. exports.

• Congressional political gridlock/low confidence in U.S. policymakers,

• Sequestration/upcoming fiscal cliff due to deficit reduction.

Home to Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base, the Fort Walton Beach-Destin region on the Panhandle has the lowest unemployment, at 5.7 percent, for a metro area, followed by Gainesville (home to the University of Florida) at 6.2 percent and Tallahassee (the capital and home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University) at 6.6 percent.

Unemployment remains high in Palm Coast (11.3 percent), Vero Beach (10.2 percent) and Port St. Lucie (10.2 percent).

The state is down to six counties with double-digit unemployment (Hendry, Flagler, St. Lucie, Putnam, Indian River and Madison), down from 12 in September.

Per the DEO, signs of economic improvements in Florida:

• Florida’s unemployment rate was down 1.7 percentage points from the October 2011 rate of 10.2 percent. It was the 23nd consecutive month of over-the-year declines in Florida’s unemployment rate.

• The current unemployment rate was down 2.9 percentage points from the last recession peak rate of 11.4 percent reached in January and February 2010 and was the lowest rate since December 2008.

• Florida’s annual job growth rate has been positive for the past 27 months. Prior to this, the state had been losing jobs for three years.

• Florida’s online job ads were up 11.9 percent over the year.

• Initial claims for Re-employment Assistance were down 7.3 percent from a year ago.

• Florida housing starts were up 29.3 percent over the year, reaching a level of 3,529 in September 2012.

• Florida median home prices were up 7.4 percent over the year.

• Taxable sales were $26.9 billion in September (preliminary), an increase of 7.4 percent over the year.

• October tax revenue (seasonally adjusted) was up 5.4 percent compared to a year ago. This marked the 31st straight month of annual increases.



Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.



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