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Over 13 percent of all Lee County residents still unemployed

By Staff | Dec 21, 2010

The unemployment picture in Lee County is still bleak, but one local official says the numbers don’t really tell the whole story.
Barbara Hartman from Southwest Florida Works said Lee’s unemployment rate — at 13.3 percent in November — has not improved year over year, but some companies are returning to the county looking to hire.
Temporary agencies are big barometer of the of local economy, she said, and two temporary service companies have used her office to recruit.
Spartan Staffing, which has regional offices in the Tampa Bay area, and Staffing Connection out of the Houston area, were two companies recently hiring in Lee.
Spartan, in particular, used to have a Fort Myers office, but closed that location when the economy began heading south. Now it’s back, albeit temporarily, hiring for Sysco Foods.
“They closed their Fort Myers branch office because the economy was very bad, and they weren’t getting enough clients to justify having an office,” Hartman said. “They were just one of many.”
With Spartan looking to hire for Sysco Foods, and Staffing Connection looking for crossing guards, Hartman said that is an indicator that employers are once again thinking of expanding their workforce, but aren’t ready to commit fully.
“It really shows us that employers are interested in hiring but not confident enough yet to make the full commitment,” she said.
Lee’s unemployment rate was up from October’s rate of 12.9 percent, and virtually unchanged from November 2009 when 13.4 percent of all Lee Countians were out of work.
Lee County is more or less on par with the rest of the five-county region, with the exception of Hendry, which boasts the highest unemployment rate in all of Florida at 17.9 percent.
While there’s some movement locally with both seasonal and temporary employment, Hartman admitted there’s still a long way to go before Lee County can consider itself recovered from the economic slump.
“It’s not enough to make a dent in the number, but this is one of the most productive times of the year for recruitment,” Hartman said. “The holidays and the return of the snowbirds helps to carry us through.”