Florida Unemployment Hits 11.5%, Some Signs of Hope
Continued sluggishness in the building and trade sectors pushed Florida’s unemployment up to 11.5 percent in November, its highest level since May 1975, the Agency for Workforce Innovation reported Friday.
With 284,800 jobs lost over the year, November’s rate was 1.5 percentage points higher than November 2009 and 0.2 percentage points higher than October. Adding discouraged workers and those being forced to work part-time, the rate jumps to 18.7 percent, or just over one in five.
There are signs of hope. The rate of job loss is slowing and some economic indicators are pointing toward recovery. But economists still caution that Florida’s unemployment rate is not expected to top out until mid 2010 as the state begins to climb out of what some have dubbed “The Great Recession.”
“After the labor market bottoms out, we will enter a painfully slow recovery period,” said Sean Snaith, an economist with the University of Central Florida. “The worst may be behind us, but there is still more pain to come.”
At 16.8 percent, Flagler County had the highest unemployment rate in Florida in November. It was followed by Hendry County at 14.9 percent, Hernando and St. Lucie counties at 14.7 percent and Indian River County at 14.6 percent.
Year to year, all major metropolitan areas in Florida lost jobs, with the Naples-Marco Island area employment leading the state, falling 7.5 percent in November. It was closely followed by Fort Myers, (6.4 percent), its neighbor to the north. Once the fastest growing region in the country, Southwest Florida continues to feel the effects of a building boom gone bust.
Gainesville remains the state’s most stable metropolitan area with an unemployment rates at a relatively low 8 percent. It was closely followed by Tallahassee at 8.1 percent.
Rebecca Rust, AWI chief economist, said areas of highest unemployment were those with high amounts of agricultural and construction related employment.
The state’s construction sector lost more than 73,000 jobs over the year, with transportation sector employment falling by 69,000, Rust said. The only sector to see job growth was in health care, which saw an increase of about 10,000 jobs over the year.
With elections around the corner, Friday’s announcement prompted a flurry of responses from political candidates.
“It’s been a rough 2009, but the policy decisions being made in Washington today and over the coming years will determine whether America faces a rough future for decades to come,” said former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who is running for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate.
Likewise, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum used the dismal holiday figures as a backdrop for his campaign efforts.
“As Governor, there is nothing more important than getting our residents back to work, and that will be my first and foremost priority,” McCollum said. “My administration will advance policies to keep taxes low, create new jobs, diversify our economy and attract new businesses to the Sunshine State.”