Unemployment dips in Lee County
The worst oil spill in U.S. history may help put Floridians to work.
Lee County’s unemployment rate dropped from 12.7 to 12.5 percent in May, according to a report from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. Statewide, the unemployment rate is 11.7 percent, a decrease from 12 percent in April.
Last month, there were 34,811 people unemployed in the county, yet many previously unemployed Floridians are being hired for part-time positions with the U.S. Census Bureau.
Earlier this week Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled Florida Gulf Recovery Jobs, an online network to find and train workers to help clean up any oil slicks on state beaches. Some 4,200 jobs are currently listed on the website (floridagulfrecoveryjobs.com), and according to the state workforce agency, more than 2,400 people have already been trained and 302 are already hard at work.
Many of the job openings are in northern Florida, near Pensacola and Panama City. They range from general labor to clean up oil to highly skilled personnel. Some positions require special training where prospective employees may receive a stipend.
According to Barbara Hartman, from the Career and Service Center in Fort Myers, the shores of Lee County haven’t been affected by the spill, and therefore oil spill jobs are currently available locally.
British Petroleum or BP, the company that oversaw Deepwater Horizon before the explosion and its subsequent leak, is hiring contractors to go into counties and hire people to assist with the clean up effort. Hartman said that residents of Lee County can’t apply to those jobs yet.
“We haven’t been affected or received any notification yet, but there is a process in place for people to apply and the priority is for people who are on unemployment and reside in a county where they would be working,” said Hartman.
Florida counties hit by the oil spill are hiring based on whether the prospective employee is a resident of that county and whether they are collecting unemployment.
Hartman said the county would be notified in advance of oil reaching the shores, BP would later start hiring and paying Lee County residents to train for the clean up and the local career center would advertise any open positions.
Oil continues to spill from the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico and officials don’t know how long it will take to be stopped, nor how long it will damage Florida’s shorelines.
Crist issued a new executive order to extend the state of emergency status for Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Monroe, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, adding them to the list of north Florida counties which were already under a state of emergency.
Lee County was first put under a state of emergency on May 20.
“Because of the foregoing conditions, I find that a continuation of the state of emergency is necessary, due to the threat that oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon well poses to the State of Florida,” Crist said in a prepared statment.