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Government Still King Job Maker in Counties with Lowest Unemployment

July 19, 2012 - 6:00pm

As Floridas unemployment mark has slowly ticked down the last year and a half, two tracks have remained in place among the counties:

Walton, Monroe, Okaloosa, and Franklin counties, predominately rural communities that have a large dependence upon government -- have held the lowest monthly marks. Why? A little because of tourism jobs, but the greater factor is that Eglin Air Force Base aids both Okaloosa and Walton.

Government jobs prop up the employment picture.

Hendry, with U.S. Sugar Corp. as its largest employer, along with Indian River, St. Lucie and St. Johns counties -- which have relied heavily on construction and agriculture jobs and have a dearth of government jobs -- have ranked at or near the top among the monthly unemployment numbers.

In the past year, the construction industry, in a continuous multiyear tailspin, lost 24,900 jobs.

With Floridas unemployment mark holding steady in June at 8.6 percent, the same as in May, with 9,000 new jobs added last month, according to a state report, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said regional plans are in the works.

Because helping with the economic recovery is a collaborative effort, a lot of the initiatives to help reduce unemployment are coordinated at the local level by the states 24 regional workforce boards and the local economic development offices, James Miller, DEO deputy chief communications officer, replied in an email.

What is being done to counter high unemployment is handled locally as are efforts to diversify an economy beyond government.

As many of the harder hit counties displayed higher numbers for June than May, Sean Snaith, a University of Central Florida economist and director of the schools Institute for Economic Competitiveness, downplayed the increases as a typical summer occurrence.

Its June, its the end of the school year -- its teachers, teachers aides, support people who may have been hired and are not working at the end of the school year, Snaith told the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

So its just something you have to keep in mind.When you have seasonally unadjusted data its not going to be a good reflection of what the underlying trends are.

So, it's government workers again, off for the summer.

The state mark is 2.1 percentage points lower than where Florida was a year ago at the same point.

Still, Hendry County has seen its rate jump from 11.8 percent to 14.2 percent from May to June, while Flagler County rose from 11.7 percent to 12.3 percent and St. Lucie grew from 11 percent to 11.8 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has emphasized his efforts to reduce regulations and taxes that stand in the way of construction and business expansion, voiced optimism that the state is growing jobs.On Wednesday, he announced 4,500 jobs arecoming to Florida in the next five years.

On Friday, visiting the One-Stop Career Center in Zephyrhills, he declared a goal of getting a job for every Floridian who wants a job.

Our strategy for Florida is working. We are lowering taxes and eliminating burdensome business regulations so that private-sector jobs can grow, and we are also making sure we have a well-educated work force, Scott stated in a release.

As a result, Floridas economy is headed in the right direction, and annual sales of single-family homes are 6.6 percent ahead of last year.

Median prices have consistently trended upward since last November and are currently up 16.1 percent, signaling good news for Floridians looking to sell their homes. For the 12 months ending this June, residential building permits are up 25 percent over the previous year, and Florida is now anticipating more people moving into our state than in recent years, based on last weeks Demographic Estimating Conference. Consumer spending in the state is strong, as indicated by a 4.7 percent increase in sales tax collections for the 12-month period ending this June.

Health care, professional services and trade employment continue to grow in Florida adding 77,200 jobs, while tourism increased by 19,300 at the same time.

In the month of June, 9,000 more Floridians got new jobs and were able to receive a paycheck to help provide for their families, Gov. Rick Scott stated in a release.

The changes were making each day are benefiting those looking for work and helping businesses recognize what a talented work force we have here in Florida.

Scott has emphasized that it's the private sector, not the taxpayers, who should be doing most of the hiring. He is aware that in that regard, the state still has a way to go.

Florida remains slightly higher than the national average, which has held the past month at 8.2 percent.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

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