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Unemployment rate holds steady in Lee

By Staff | Mar 26, 2010

Lee County’s unemployment picture is still bleak, but February’s number — 13.9 percent — doesn’t quite tell the whole story, according to Barbara Hartman.
Hartman, of the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers, said there is hiring taking place, just not enough to make a dent on the record numbers the county, and the state, have been experiencing over the last year.
Between January and February, 2,000 new jobs were created, according to Hartman.
“We’re one of the hardest hit areas in the country, but we have to balance that with the fact that we were one of the fastest growing areas in the country, too,” Hartman said.
February’s numbers were down slightly from January’s unemployment rate of 14.2 percent.
Statewide, Florida posted a 12.2 percent unemployment rate, up from January’s 12 percent. Both were record numbers.
In the five-county region, Hendry county fared the worst with a 14.9 percent unemployment rate. Lee was next at 13.9, followed by Charlotte County at 13.7 percent, Collier at 12.6 percent, and Glades at 12 percent.
Of the 2,000 new jobs in Lee, 1,000 jobs were in the leisure and hospitality industry, 400 in the professional and business service industries, 300 in retail and 300 in trade transportation.
Hartman also pointed out that year over year, the county’s negative job growth rate also decreased.
February 2009 – 2010, the job growth rate was negative 4.8 percent. January year over year, the job growth rate was negative 5.6 percent.
“The job loss is slowing,” Hartman said. “We’re making headway and that’s encouraging.”
March’s unemployment numbers are due in April 16.
Hartman said that spring break could have a decent affect on lowering the unemployment rate, but she’s especially looking at the 2010 Census as making one of the largest hits.
“I’m hoping the census is going to have a major affect on the numbers,” Hartman said.