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Unemployment drops in Lee County

By Staff | Jul 23, 2020

Although unemployment rates are still high, Lee County has seen a positive reduction at 9.8 percent for the month of June.

CareerSource Southwest Florida Communications Manager Janeth Castrejon said the positive reduction with unemployment rates began in May and continued into June.

“It’s a great trend and we are excited about it,” Castrejon said, adding that although they are seeing a positive trend of unemployment reduction, the answer of how quickly the area can recover from this is unknown.

Florida, for the month of June, had an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent; Collier County of 9.7 percent, Charlotte County of 9.4 percent, Glades County of 7.5 percent and Hendry County of 10.9 percent.

From May to June, Castrejon said the state of Florida decreased 3.6 points. In May, Florida was at 14.6 percent unemployment and June decreased to 10.7 percent. Furthermore Southwest Florida went down almost 4 percent from 13.6 percent in May to 9.7 percent in June.

Castrejon said Lee County had the highest reduction in unemployment rates than the other five surrounding counties of Southwest Florida.

“It’s a brand new challenge. The (COVID-19) pandemic is something we have not seen before,” she said.

Furthermore in June there were two industries that had the greatest gains, construction with 900 jobs and professional and business services with 800 jobs.

“If we continue with this positive trend, I would like to say our time in this recession would be shorter than 2007-2009,” she said.

The positive trend in construction jobs began in May when there was a gain of 600 jobs.

“That was kind of a surprise, but not so much. In the last recession of 2007-2009 construction was mostly affected because of the housing and mortgage bubble, it just blew up,” Castrejon said. “This pandemic has been quite different. Construction is done outside, or in isolated areas.”

She went on to say that construction jobs have continued throughout the pandemic, enabling the industry to stay stable and strong.

As far as professional and business services, the job gains have been in such industries as legal service, accounting, computer system design, administrative support and employment services.

On the flip side, leisure and hospitality has seen a decrease of 13,500 jobs in June, a loss of 5,000 jobs for trade, transportation and utilities and 1,600 jobs loss for educational and health services.

Castrejon said the good news is that companies are still hiring and are in need to fill positions. She said this is the case for the medical industry, who has been greatly impacted during the pandemic due to switching to a technical mode instead of inhouse care.

Lee Health, one of the largest employers in the area, Castrejon said are in great need of ICU registered nurses and ICU techs, due to the increase in the number of patients.

“There is still a great need to fulfill the necessity to take care of people,” she said.

The field of technology has also seen an increase due to the number of virtual meetings, workshops and career fairs.

“They have seen a huge spike in business and services and the need to have individuals certified in the technology field,” she said.

Southwest Florida, Castrejon said was not quite ready to go into the virtual world, although there was plenty of discussion before the pandemic occurred.

“The pandemic pushed us that way. We tried to embrace it and switch and become flexible to learn the new norm,” she said of the Southwest Florida business community. “We were forced into it, but I think we are getting ourselves there.”

Another industry that is going to boom is logistics, once Airglades International Airport opens in 2022 in Hendry County. Castrejon said the airport has been in the works since 2010 and finally received approval.

“There is a great need to get goods from South and Central America to Florida,” she said, adding that Hendry County was the closest port to distribute goods across the United States.

The goods will consists of fresh flowers, seafood, vegetables and fruits. After arriving in Hendry County the goods will be transported to semis and then immediately distributed into the states.

“That is going to bring hundreds, if not thousands of jobs in Southwest Florida. It will have a positive effect into the local economy,” she said.

Another big employer has also entered Southwest Florida, Amazon, which is opening a distribution center in Naples.

“They are hiring and training individuals,” Castrejon said, which includes positions for delivery service and warehouse management for distribution centers.

She believes that CareerSource Southwest Florida will have an increase of individuals seeking help once the waiver for unemployment claims expire, as well as federal stimulus funding retiring July 25. She said after Aug. 1, in order for individuals to keep their unemployment benefits they have to show work search quotas of five jobs per week.

“After Aug. 1 we are going to see quite a bit of need in our community to assist with job search if that deadline is not extended. It’s kind of hard to predict if the governor would extend it again. Every day is something new,” Castrejon said. “New challenges. New decisions made.”

CareerSource Southwest Florida is holding their first Virtual Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, July 30.

“We have over 30 companies locally here in Southwest Florida that need to connect with people looking for employment,” she said.

There is no registration fee to attend the Virtual Career Fair, which will also include advice and assistance of how to navigate a virtual job fair.

Castrejon said the assistance will provide some best practices for the job seekers, such as where to put the camera to have the best lighting, the best sound, and how to present oneself and navigate the virtual platform.

“We have been practicing and learning quickly in the last three months to help others navigate and be successful. It’s exciting to be able to provide that,” Castrejon said.

Those interested can register at www.premiervirtual.com/event/register/csswfl-july30.

CareerSource Southwest Florida is ready to help individuals find a job. She said as long as the individual has an idea of what they want to do they can help them connect with employers.

“We are open by appointment preferably,” Castrejon said, which can be done through their website, www.careersourcesouthwestflorida.com. “We have the manpower and plan in place to help everyone.”

Since opening their office on June 1, they have practiced social distancing, as well as disinfecting areas between appointments. In addition, all employees wear masks and a health reviewer is at the front of the office asking all clients specific health questions to protect both employees and clients.