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Survey: Hiring to drop in Cape Coral-Fort Myers area

By Staff | Dec 9, 2008

For residents of Lee County, where unemployment stands at 9.5 percent, there was more bad economic news as a Manpower Employment Outlook survey released Tuesday revealed that the outlook for employment in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area “is one of the weakest in the nation.”
The survey asked 31,800 employers nationwide about their hiring plans for the first three months of 2009. The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area had the sixth weakest employment outlook in the nation.
Locally, 13 percent of survey respondents plan to hire more workers from January to March, 64 percent will keep their current staff levels and 19 percent said they will cut their staff. About 4 percent said they were unsure of their hiring plans.
Mayra Nunez, a spokesperson for Manpower, said Florida and other states like California and Nevada — where housing bubbles are most prevalent — are being affected the most by cutbacks in staff levels by employers.
“When the rest of the nation started feeling all these problems with housing, Florida had been feeling it for some time,” Nunez said.
Mike Quaintance, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, said attracting more people to the area will bring more businesses to the area.
“Our focus is still going to be on bringing new residents in. What it does is bring in new revenues that weren’t there prior. As long as tourism stays up there’ll be opportunity here,” Quaintance said.
A large part of that tourism is the migration of snowbirds, as northern residents race mild temperatures down to Southwest Florida during the winter months.
The influx of snowbirds during the tourist season — from November to April — and its affect on the economy is reflected in the Manpower survey, as the transportation, utilities, leisure and hospitality sectors reported they will likely increase their payrolls next quarter.
Homer Sosa, director of the Cape Coral office of the Careers and Service Centers of Southwest Florida, said his office helps the unemployed cross over into the emerging sectors.
“If you’re in construction and can’t find a job, we have training to change careers even,” Sosa said.
Sosa knows firsthand how bad the unemployment situation is in Lee County — his office in the Cape did not exist six months ago.
“This satellite office … is a direct result of the unemployment situation. At that time in June, people couldn’t afford the gas to get over the bridge,” Sosa said.
Gas prices peaked at more than $4 per gallon this summer, but have plummeted recently to less than $2 per gallon.
Nunez said that might generate more tourist dollars.
“With gas prices starting to come down a little bit, hopefully we’ll see more revenue come into Southwest Florida,” she said.
Because Cape Coral has been one of the cities hardest hit by the housing crisis, many expect it will be among the first to emerge from the economic doldrums.
“I’m hoping since we were one of the first to see it, we will be one of the first to come out,” Nunez said.