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Unemployment nudges up to 13.2 percent

By Staff | Aug 22, 2009

Lee County’s unemployment rate did not improve in July, but at 13.2 percent it didn’t get much worse either.
According to data released on Friday by the state of Florida, July’s percentage is up from a revised rate of 13.1 percent in June for Lee County.
Year over year, the percentage is way up over July 2008, when Lee’s unemployment rate was 8.6 percent.
Statewide, Florida’s unemployment rate stayed at 10.7 percent, which is up 4.4 percentage points from the July 2008 rate.
Though the numbers have stayed mostly stagnant in June, local employment officials are not certain if it’s indicative of any trends.
Barbara Hartman from the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers was working with managers from Hyatt Place Hotel, a new hotel in Fort Myers, on staffing their business for an October opening.
Hartman said 400 people applied for 40 jobs, including housekeepers and front desk positions.
“It just really shows you the tremendous number of job seekers who are in competition,” she said.
Of those who did apply, Hartman said a number of the applicants held degrees, and came from backgrounds in business and other professional fields.
“We’re seeing more people who are overqualified to a larger degree than we have seen before,” she added.
The United State Census Bureau will also be doing some hiring in the area according to Hartman, as they are preparing to open an office in Fort Myers.
Though Hartman did not say how jobs the new office will bring to the area, she did say there are no “mass hirings” on the horizon.
She is keeping her eye on the Metro Parkway Extension, which could potentially become that mass hiring Hartman, and many others, are looking for.
Using federal stimulus dollar, the $30 million plus project could bring hundreds of jobs to area, but right now no one knows when the extension will break ground.
“We’re watching that closely,” she said. “It would be a much-needed boost to our unemployment situation, bringing money and jobs to the economy.”
The five-county region of Southwest Florida fared poorly, overall.
Hendry County has it the worst at 16.4 percent unemployment, which is the highest percentage for any single county in Florida.
Collier County posted a 12.1 percent rate, Charlotte was at 12 percent, and Desoto County was at 11.4 percent for July 2009.
Hendry County, an agriculture based area, is down, in part, because growing season has not yet arrived.