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Employment gains ahead? Better jobs picture predicted for new year

By Staff | Dec 24, 2011

Manpower, a Milwaukee, Wis. based staffing agency, is predicting gains in local employment during the first quarter of 2012.

A survey conducted by the company revealed that 17 percent of employers will look to up their staffing levels in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers statistical area.

Tied with the Lakeland-Winter Haven statistical area, it’s enough to rank first in the nation.

Boston, Nashville and Tulsa, Oklahoma are a few of the statistical areas that will rank in the bottom fifth of most improved, with an 11 percent net employment outlook.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dayton, Ohio, and Spokane, Wash., are two of the weakest statistical areas surveyed, with a negative 4 percent employment outlook for the first quarter.

Southwest Florida Works, was not surprised by the outlook.

“It’s not a fluke that we’re improving,” she said. “The growth is steady and employers are more optimistic.”

Lee County’s unemployment rate for November was 10.5 percent, a marked improvement over November 2010 when 13.2 percent of all Lee job seekers were out of work.

That’s also the lowest unemployment percentage since December of 2008, when it sat at 9.6 percent.

Manpower is predicting that the construction industry will continue to struggle, but industries including manufacturing, transportation, education and health services and leisure and hospitality will grow in 2012.

Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce President Mike Quaintance said the city does need growth, but it needs to be able to sustain that growth in the long run.

He thinks that steady and sustainable means a 2 to 3 percent increase in hiring over the next three years.

As people get back to work, vacant homes will start to fill up, the service industries will benefit. And eventually, new homes will start to be built again.

“Moderate growth is sustainable and that’s a good thing,” he said. “We want that sustainability.”

With both the holiday season and the return of seasonal residents, unemployment numbers will likely continue to drop through the first of the year and into the spring.

Barbara Hartman said seasonal hiring is off to a great start.

“Job seekers are seeing more opportunities. They are securing more interviews than they have before,” she said.

Unemployment dropped in all of the five Southwest Florida counties.

On a state level, Florida’s unemployment rate was at 10 percent, the lowest since May 2009 when it was the same.