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Unemployment nudges upward

By Staff | Sep 19, 2009

Lee County’s unemployment rate is still struggling to see improvement with the month of August coming in at 13.5 percent, compared to the previous month’s 13.3 percent.
According to data released Friday by the state of Florida, unemployment has reached 10.7 percent statewide, representing 984,000 people without work, which is nearly unchanged from the previous month’s 10.8 percent.
Florida is currently 1 percent higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.
Barbara Hartman from the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers said Lee County is currently ranked fifth with the most unemployed workers out of 67 counties in Florida. An estimated 36,564 people are out of work here.
“These are historical numbers,” she said.
Hendry County has the worst unemployment rate in Florida at 16.4 percent, which decreased from the previous month of 16.7 percent.
Flagler County has also fared poorly with a 15.7 percent unemployment rate, Indian River County’s posted a 15.2 unemployment rate and St. Lucie tapped in with a 14.7 percent rate.
“The state and county rate is significantly higher than the United States national rate of unemployment,” she said.
She stated that the Current Employment Statistics Program, otherwise known as the payroll survey that measures jobs, is currently experiencing a slowing trend. She said it is minimal, but it may be a new trend for the area.
“That’s some encouraging news,” Hartman said.
Hartman said the job fair that was held Thursday at The Resort at Marina Village at Tarpon Point in Cape Coral highlighted the tremendous number of job seekers in Lee County.
“They flocked to the job fair,” she said of the event that continues today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
She said she saw a similar experience with a recent Comcast job fair hosted at the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers. Hartman said 20 positions were available for the communication technicians position with 170 applications.
“People are following instructions much more closely to increase their chances to be hired,” Hartman said. “It is such a competitive market.”
She also shared some encouraging news about the U.S. Census opening an office in Lee County this October, which will provide numerous jobs for people.
Hartman explained that the census works in phases and they have already begun to lay down the foundation for the census count.
“It puts people back to work,” she said. “They are fairly well-paying jobs, but they are temporary,” adding that individuals may be called back numerous times for work.
“The location has not been released, but it has been selected,” she said about the U.S. Census in Lee County.
A brand new training class for individuals who have already been hired by the U.S. Census will begin their training at the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers on Monday, she explained.
More testing dates will be set up at the end of the month, providing hundreds of jobs for Lee County residents.
“That will have an impact as we move forward to the 2010 U.S Census count,” she said. “It puts money back into our local economy,” she said.
Hartman said Lee County experienced a growth in jobs in August with a gain of 2,400 workers in the non-instructional staff within the Lee County School District. Hartman said this happened because the Lee County School District began its school year.
She said that almost all of the industry sector has a negative job growth year over year, with the exception of two sectors. The whole-sale trade had a positive growth of only 1.5 percent.
The education and health services sector experienced a .9 percent growth year over year, Hartman said.