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Unemployment rate hits 12 percent in Lee County

By Staff | Mar 31, 2009

Lee County’s unemployment rate hit a record high in February, coming in at 12 percent. The number is nearly doubled from February 2008, when the unemployment rate was at 6.4 percent.

Released on Friday, the numbers reveal a picture of Florida’s workforce that is growing progressively worse.

The state’s unemployment rate was 9.4 percent for February, representing 874,000 people currently out of work. The statewide number is up from 8.8 percent in January ’09, and 4.2 percent in February of ’08.

Lee County’s unemployment rate is not the highest among of all Florida’s 67 counties; that distinction goes to Flagler county at 14.2 percent, but there has been negative job growth in nearly all categories. There are close to 34,000 people out of work in Lee County.

Career and Service Center spokeswoman Barbara Hartman said the Leisure and Hospitality industry is up 600 jobs, while the professional and business service industry increased by 200 jobs.

Still, it has done little to make a true dent on the thousands currently out of work.

“I don’t want to give the impression there’s no hiring, there is, but it’s at a reduced level,” Hartman said. “The people that are finding employment doesn’t make a dent in our labor market statistics because there’s 33,800 people out of work.”

Hartman warned that the increase in the hospitality industry jobs is due to “season” being in full swing, and the number would undoubtedly crest once spring turns into summer.

She suggested that federal stimulus money will go to help with new job training for the unemployed, and those receiving unemployment benefits will see an extra $25 in their checks.

“We are gearing up for that and it will have a positive effect on our economy… these are support efforts aimed at assisting Florida workers and their skills,” Hartman said.

The count of people who lost their jobs in Lee County between January and February is 1,271.

Unemployment numbers for March are due April 17.