Unemployment rate holds steady
Released on Friday, unemployment numbers for the state could very well indicate workforce conditions, while not improving, have begun to level off.
Lee County’s unemployment rate for March was 12.2 percent, representing 34,150 jobless, only a slight increase from February’s revised 12.1 percent.
Statewide, the unemployment rate for March is 9.7 percent, representing 893,000 jobless out of a labor force of 9,210,000. Like the Lee County numbers, the state’s percentage increased only 0.1 percentage point from 9.6 percent in February ’09.
While the numbers for Lee County are much higher than the 6.7 percent unemployment rate for March ’08, Career and Service Center spokeswoman Barbara Hartman is hoping the worst is behind us.
“I would say its (unemployment percentage) an indication of the employment leveling out,” said Hartman. “It’s such a slight increase … generally in past months its been a very steep climb. I think we’re seeing the effects of the infusion of the stimulus money.”
Those stimulus funds could mean a great deal to Lee county in multiple areas, especially if an estimated 1,800 jobs are created for Metro Parkway Extension.
The Metro Parkway Extension is one of multiple transit and road projects that are part of $74 million in federal stimulus coming to Lee.
Hartman said the 1,800 jobs would have a “very positive impact” on the local workforce, and that the Agency for Workforce Innovation — governing body of the Career and Service Center — also is expecting stimulus money for employment and training programs.
Hartman added that while Lee is still facing negative job growth and no mass hirings for March, there haven’t been any mass firings or lay-offs either.
“Even though our rate is high, it doesn’t seem to be increasing significantly. It does seem to be leveling off for now,” she said.
According to figures released by the Agency for Workforce Innovation, all nonagricultural industries experienced negative job growth, the sole exception being education and health services, which increased by 19,700 jobs.
Much of the increase in education and health services is due to growth in hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities.