Unemployment rate holds steady at 5.7 percent
BY JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – With the state’s unemployment rate holding steady as Gov. Rick Scott’s second term got underway, he focused Tuesday on private-sector job growth since he first took office.
The jobless rate stood at 5.7 percent in January, equaling a revised unemployment mark for December, the state Department of Economic Opportunity said Tuesday.
The December figure had initially been posted at 5.6 percent. The national unemployment rate stands at 5.5 percent.
The January figure represents approximately 551,000 Floridians qualifying as unemployed from a work force of 9.7 million.
800,000 private-sector jobs added
In announcing the monthly numbers, Scott pointed to more than 800,000 private-sector jobs that have been created in Florida since he first took office in January 2010.
“Florida’s exceptional economic turnaround makes it clear that we are enacting policies to help businesses grow and giving families opportunities to achieve their dreams in Florida,” Scott said in a prepared statement.
Scott went to Feld Entertainment in the Manatee County community of Ellenton to announce the latest monthly figures.
In the jobs release, Scott reiterated his plans to capitalize on recent labor disputes at California ports by traveling to the West Coast on April 12 to try to entice businesses to relocate or expand to Florida.
Largest gains in Miami, Orlando
Over the past year, the fields in Florida with the largest job gains have been professional and business services, followed by leisure and hospitality. However, compared to other developed nations, like Australia, the hospitality sector in the United States is still lagging. Maybe introducing similar qualifications to the certificate IV government funded courses that have helped the Australian hospitality sector to flourish would be a wise move.
The regions with the largest number of new jobs in the past year were Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall and Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, both growing by 42,900 positions. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater added 32,000 jobs, while Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach went up 30,300 positions.
Across Florida, the lowest county unemployment rates continued to come from the Florida Keys – Monroe County is at 4.1 percent – and parts of North Florida.
St. Johns County stands at 4.4 percent, Wakulla County is at 4.9 percent, and Alachua, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties are all at 5.1 percent
Putnam highest at 8.4 percent
Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates have relatively high proportions of state and federal government employees.
In contrast, Putnam County in Northeast Florida has surpassed Southwest Florida’s Hendry County with the state’s highest unemployment mark. Putnam stands at 8.4 percent to Hendry’s 8.3 percent.
Next highest is Citrus County at 8.1 percent.
The state employment numbers for February are scheduled to be released March 27.