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Unemployment still hovering near 14 percent

By Staff | Nov 21, 2009

Lee County’s unemployment rate took a small step down in October, ending the county’s months-long slide into record numbers of people out of work.
Lee posted a 13.7 percent rate for the month of October, down from September’s all-time high of 14 percent, but still significantly higher than September 2008’s rate of 9.5 percent.
The percentage for October 2009 represents 37,840 people out of work, out of a labor force of 272,462.
Barbara Hartman, of the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers, said the numbers, while high, do represent some job growth over the 30-day period, with no significant job loss.
The Leisure and Hospitality Industry grew by 200 jobs, and the Professional and Business Service Industry grew by 500 jobs, according to Hartman. Retail jobs also showed slight growth.
“The professional and business sector is a positive sign,” she said. “That’s a good foundation … employers are feeling more confidant in that sector. It seems they’re starting to take steps to expand their workforce.”
With negative job growth expanding from month to month, even a slight bump is something to feel positive about, Hartman said.
While she wouldn’t speculate on how many months, put together, it would take before a trend forms, she did say solid job growth can’t take place until employers show sustained minimal job growth.
The return of the holidays, and the snowbird season will help some, but it’s hard to know, as yet, if Lee County’s unemployed are on the rebound.
“There’s been some job growth over the month and that’s encouraging,” she said. “It’s showing there’s some confidence.”
Looking at the unemployment picture statewide, Florida is still in dire straits.
Florida’s unemployment rate for October is still 11.2 percent, matching the same percentage from June 1975. The only time it was higher was May 1975 when it was 11.9 percent.
In Southwest Florida, unemployment percentages, for the most part, showed minimal improvement.
Charlotte County posted 12.7 percent, down slightly from 12.8 percent in September. Collier county posted 12.4 percent, down from 13.1 percent. Glades County posted 9.2 percent, down from 10 percent. And Hendry County posted 15.7 percent, down from 16.7 percent.
The only county in Florida to post a higher unemployment rate than Hendry, was Flagler County, which posted a 16.1 percentage rate.