Unemployment continues decline

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The jobless rate in April for Workforce Connection’s Citrus, Levy and Marion counties region was 7.5 percent, down 0.3 percentage points over the month and 2.1 percent lower than the same time last year.

 The unemployment rate for the region is the lowest since June 2008 when it was 7.7 percent.  

For the fifth consecutive month, the Ocala/Marion County metropolitan area led the state with the fastest job-growth rate at 3.2 percent, with 2,900 new jobs over the year. Florida’s job-growth rate during the same period was 1.6 percent.

According to today’s release of the April 2013 unemployment rates by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), Marion County posted an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, a drop of 0.3 percent over the month and the lowest it has been since June 2008 when the rate was 7.6 percent; Citrus County’s rate fell 0.3 percentage points to 7.6 percent, the lowest since June 2008 (8.1 percent); and Levy County dropped 0.1 percentage points to 7.6  percent, the lowest since July 2008 (7.7 percent). Local rates are not seasonally adjusted.

 Florida’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in April was 6.8 percent and the national rate was 7.1 percent.


Rusty Skinner, Workforce Connection’s chief executive officer, said the data indicates that “this has been another positive month in our trending related to an expanding labor force, expanding employment and reduced unemployment. In all three counties, there is positive movement in each of these areas.”


Out of a regional labor force of 206,773, which remained virtually unchanged over the month, there were 15,535 unemployed, down 572 over the month and down 4,205 since April 2012. Here is how the employment numbers break down for each county in the Workforce Connection region:


·         Citrus County’s labor force grew by 83 to 56,493, the number of employed rose by 220 to 52,187 while the number of jobless fell by 137 to 4,306. One year ago, the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent with 5,330 unemployed and two years ago, Citrus County’s unemployment rate was 11 percent with 6,209 people out of work.

·         Levy County’s labor remained virtually unchanged, growing by one to 16,195 since March, employment rose by 17 to 14,968 and the number of unemployed dropped by 16 to 1,227. In April 2012, the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent and the number of unemployed was 1,493. Two years ago, the jobless rate was 10.3 percent with 1,740 people unemployed.

·         Marion County’s labor force expanded by 1,016 to 134,085, the number of those with jobs rose by 1,435 to 124,083 and those who were unemployed fell by 419 to 10,002. That represents an over-the-year increase of 4,508 of those with jobs and a decrease of 2,915 in the number of unemployed when the unemployment rate was 9.7 percent. Two years ago, the unemployment rate of 11.7 percent two years ago when 15,616 were without jobs.


Skinner said that the expansion of the number of those with jobs compared to the more modest decline may at first blush “seem odd” but is actually seen as “another good sign.”


“This shows another positive in that it represents renewed job search by persons who previously may have been discouraged,” he said. “Either the 1,000 person difference resulted in workers who had stepped out of the labor force and weren’t actively seeking work, but returned and were counted as unemployed, or they returned to the labor force in the last month and found work.”


While the Ocala MSA continued to hold the fifth highest unemployment rate among Florida’s metro areas, total nonagricultural employment was 94,700, up 2,900 jobs over the year. For the fifth month in a row, the Ocala metro area had the highest job-growth rate at 3.2 percent, followed by Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (+3.1 percent), and Jacksonville (+2.8 percent). The Ocala MSA also tied with the Naples-Marco Island metro area for the highest growth rate in information employment (+7.1 percent) for all metro areas in Florida.


Eight major industries gained jobs over the year, led by education and health services (+900 jobs);

trade, transportation and utilities (+800 jobs); leisure and hospitality (+500 jobs); professional and business services (+300 jobs each); and mining, logging and construction and financial activities (+200 jobs each); and information and other services (+100 each). All eight of the industries gaining jobs grew faster in the metro area than the state over the year.


Manufacturing and government lost 100 jobs each over the year.


Among Florida’s 67 counties, Marion County dropped one place to 14th highest unemployment rate, Citrus County remained 11th highest and Levy County rose from to 17th to 13th highest.


Rebecca Rust, DEO’s chief economist, said Friday that April was the first month since May 2008 that all Florida counties had jobless rates below 10 percent.


Rust said that the percentage of “job leavers” – those who voluntarily leave jobs – is up over the month from 7.5 to 7.9 percent.


“That’s an indicator that the economy is up, when people feel confident and leave their jobs voluntarily,” she said.


Rust said that other positive signs include:


Florida Improvements


The March and April 2013 over the month unemployment rate drops were the largest since October 2011. The unemployment rate has declined or held steady over the month for 32 months. 


·         Florida’s annual job growth rate has been equal to or stronger than the nation’s since March 2012.


·         Eight of the 10 major industries experienced positive job growth over the year including construction and financial activities. 


Florida’s job growth rate over the month has been positive for 21 of the last 22 months.


Florida’s annual job growth rate has been positive for the past 33 months.  Prior to this, the state had been losing jobs for over three years.


Initial claims for Reemployment Assistance were down 10.1 percent from a year ago in April. 


Florida’s foreclosures were down 5,315 (-26.0 percent) over the year in March (State Courts data).


Florida’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to 79 in April, up 3 points over the month.


Florida housing starts were up 41.1 percent over the year in March.  


·         Florida median home prices were up 15.9 percent over the year in March. 


 An estimated 26 million visitors came to Florida in the first quarter of 2013, an increase of 4.7 percent over the same period in 2012.