Unemployment dips statewide
Florida’s unemployment figures were released on Friday, revealing a picture of the state’s workforce that might be on the road to recovery.
Unemployment percentages dropped nearly statewide. While not decreasing dramatically, most of Florida’s 67 counties saw unemployment numbers fall.
Lee County’s unemployment rate was 11.9 percent for the month of April, representing 33,141 jobless, a decrease from 12.3 percent in March of 09.
Statewide, the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, representing 885,00 jobless out of a labor force of 9,239,000. Like Lee County, the percentage dropped slightly, down from 9.8 percent in March.
“I think it’s an indication of some relief,” said Barbara Hartman, spokeswoman for the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers. “It’s an indication of the economy reacting to all the steps that are in place to help our economy recover.”
The five-county region of Southwest Florida nearly all posted decreases in unemployment percentages. Only Glades County’s percentages increased, from 8 percent in March to 8.5 percent in April.
Hartman thinks the influx of federal stimulus dollars have started to have a positive effect on the local economy.
The county is due to receive more than $74 million for infrastructure projects throughout the year.
One of the major projects due to utilize federal stimulus monies is the Metro Parkway Extension in South Lee County, which is predicted to create 1,800 new jobs.
Hartman added the Career and Service Center has already started putting stimulus money to work by offering training programs for “demand occupations”.
Examples of in-demand jobs are in medical, education, and technology fields.
“We’re training them now for positions that are in demand in our area,” Hartman said.
Unemployment numbers for May are due June 19. Hartman didn’t want to predict if the numbers would continue to fall, but did say there have not been any mass layoffs or firings in the last 30 days.
The only industry that showed positive growth in Lee County over the last 30 days were in business and professional services.
Hartman warned that small pockets of hiring will do little to greatly impact the local numbers. There are jobs in Lee County she added, maybe just not the exact jobs someone is looking for.
“There are jobs here,” she said. “You could see the health and education services that are showing job growth. They’re still very much in demand.”