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Unemployment rate hits 11.5 percent

By Staff | Mar 7, 2009

Lee County’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 11.5 percent for the month of January, up from 10 percent in December, and up from 6.4 percent from January ’08.
According to state statistics, 32,000 people in Lee County are out of work, with the largest job losses still coming from the construction industry. As a whole, Florida’s unemployment rate sits at 8.6 percent, and the nation is at 8.5 percent, with more than 13 million out of work.
Barbara Hartsman of the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers said they have seen a very high number of people coming through their facility to use computers, get training and resume advice.
Hartsman added that one trend that has been on the decline is the number of people leaving Florida to seek employment elsewhere.
“We saw that trend (of people leaving Florida) very strongly in the middle of last year and toward the ends. What we’re seeing now are people who are looking for more part time positions,” Hartsman said. “Many of our customers are invested in this area. They can’t just move out of state. Generally people who are moving out of state were following the construction jobs.”
While Lee did not have the highest unemployment rate in Florida (that distinction goes to Flagler County with 14.2 percent), it doesn’t fare much better than Charlotte County at 11 percent, and Collier at 8.6 percent.
Hartsman warned that Flagler County may have a higher unemployment rate but Lee is in a much more dire situation, as only 4,544 people are out of work in Flagler.
“Their labor force is skewed,” Hartsman said. “They have a smaller population.”
The Career and Service Center in Cape Coral is also seeing a steady flow of job seekers as well, but manager Homer Sosa said far too many people have yet to discover the location.
The Fort Myers location does offer more job training services, but the Cape office has the same computer and resume services.
“It’s a big help for people here who are out of gas money and aren’t able to make it to Fort Myers,” Sosa said.
Sosa said the mood of people has been mostly positive, and he generally tries to keep a positive and upbeat attitude for the varied job seekers.
“A lot of them have a lot of grumblings, but they have to stay positive to a point,” Sosa added. “They have to keep looking, they can’t give up.”