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Politics

Florida's Jobless Numbers Grow as Sunshine State Slows Through the Summer

August 16, 2012 - 6:00pm

After more than a year-and-a-half downward march, with schools out and many farm workers off for the summer, Floridas unemployment mark took an upward turn in July.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced an 8.8 percent, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July, with approximately 816,000 out of work from the work force of 9.27 million.

The rate is 0.2 percent above where Florida stood in June, but still 1.8 percentage points lower than where the state was in July 2011.

Gov. Rick Scott, who according to media reports has been pressured by the Mitt Romney campaign to downplay the states efforts to revive its economic outlook, put an optimistic stance on the latest numbers.

While the unemployment rate can vary from month to month, Florida continues to see positive private-sector job growth, Scott stated in a release. My goal remains the same: to make Florida the No. 1 business destination in the world by improving the states economic climate, highlighting our talented and skilled work force and getting Floridians back to work.

In the release accompanying the latest job numbers, the state department noted that the 24 Regional Workforce Boards reported more than 25,000 Floridians placed in jobs in July and that on the help wanted openings in July on the states online job site, The Conference Board, Florida is up almost 30,000 from a year earlier.

The state numbers should receive a usual bump in August as teachers and students return to school, and into the fall as the growing season gets under way.

Major occupational groups with the most online ads in July were sales and related occupations; health care practitioners and technical occupations; office and administrative support occupations; and computer and mathematical occupations.

Under Governor Scotts leadership, we have seen positive trends in various areas of our economy, including a decrease in the number of re-employment assistance claims, Hunting F. Deutsch, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, stated in a release.

Our collaboration with our workforce partners around the state is bringing innovative initiatives that are providing job seekers with the skills they need to be successful in the work force.

The joblessness announcement came as Scott was in Tampa to announce that Indianapolis-based appraisal management company StreetLinks Lender Solutions is expanding its Florida footprint, doubling its office space and promising to add 110 jobs over the next three years.

The positive changes were making here in Florida are helping private-sector jobs grow and will spur additional job growth in the months ahead, Scott said of StreetLinks.

When companies like StreetLinks choose to expand in our state, it is evidence Florida is moving in the right direction.

StreetLinks, which has been working with Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance and Enterprise Florida Inc., opened its Florida operations in July 2011 and now employs 190 in the Tampa Bay area.

Our highly skilled work force is comprised of the most passionate and ambitious people I have ever had the privilege to work with, Tom Hurst, president of StreetLinks, stated in a release.Their ability to demonstrate this on every transaction is the real secret to our success.

Florida has seen housing starts rise by 26.2 percent in the past year, with the median home price up by 2.7 percent since June.

But real estate gains havent been coming in construction. From June to July, the state lost 3,300 jobs.

In the past year, construction has had the biggest drop in jobs, losing 16,900 positions, followed by government jobs with 10,700 losses.

Since last summer, the state has added 69,900 jobs.

With a growth rate at 1 percent, the state remains behind the national rate of job growth, which stands at 1.4 percent.

The national unemployment mark, announced earlier this month, stood at 8.3 percent in July.

The job losses were offset by professional and business jobs, growing by 41,600 positions in the past year, followed by trade, transportation, and utilities (19,500 jobs) and private education and health services (17,400 jobs).

Across the state, counties that continue to rely heavily upon government employment, often correctional facilities and military establishments, had the lowest unemployment:Monroe County (5.3 percent), Walton County (5.6 percent), Okaloosa County (6.4 percent), and Franklin County (6.5 percent).

Counties with the highest unemployment remain Hendry County (16.1 percent), Flagler County (12.7 percent), St. Lucie County (12.6 percent), and Indian River County (12.2 percent), which feature communities highly dependent upon agriculture and related industries.

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

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