State Unemployment Nears 12%
Florida’s unemployment rate inched up in January but did not eclipse the 12 percent level predicted by some economists months ago, the Agency for Workforce Innovation reported Wednesday.
The jobless rate hit 11.9 percent, up 3.2 percent from a year earlier and 0.2 percentage points higher than December’s adjusted rate.
Continued job losses in the utilities, construction and hospitality sectors offset jobs gains in health care and private education. The result was an additional 303,200 jobs lost over the year.
The job losses are partially due to weakness in specialty trade contractors; merchant wholesalers of durable goods; employment services; bars and restaurants, AWI reported.
The January rate is the highest recorded since May 1975 and remains above the national average of 9.7 percent.
Flagler County posted the state’s highest jobless rate, with 17.1 percent of it workforce idled. It was followed by Hernando (15.7 percent); Marion County (15.4 percent); Hardee and St. Lucie counties (14.9 percent.) There were 57 Florida counties with double-digit unemployment rates in January, up from 51 the previous month.
Meanwhile, counties with a disproportionate number of government or university jobs have fared much better. Liberty County has the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 7.5 percent, followed by Monroe County (8.2 percent), Leon County (8.5 percent), and Alachua County (8.7 percent.)
Florida’ jobless figures were released the same day Gov. Charlie Crist hit the road for a number of ceremonial bill signings that postpone an unemployment tax increase on business while extending jobless benefits to an estimated 20,000 unemployed Floridians.
The new law reduces the minimum rate of unemployment tax businesses owe from $100.30 to $25.50 per employee. The bill also extended benefits through February.
Crist also announced the state is scheduled to receive the first installment of $61.2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will be combined with state money to give to businesses that hire new workers. The workers have to be eligible for certain low income assistance programs.