As state jobless rate drops a bit, anybody want to take an anvil to 'Dr. Evil Unemployment'?
Wake up and good morning. There's a very good answer to those readers who ask why I bother to talk about what's going on in the employment markets of other states. Here in job-battered Florida, we can't really tell how we're doing without checking out the competition, like those 49 other states and D.C. And right now, the news is more promising than you might think for the Sunshine State, even with its still high 11.1 statewide unemployment rate.
Before we plunge into the good news, though, you might be asking: Who is that cartoon-looking character, Dr. Evil Unemployment? He was created by Workforce Central Florida as part of a campaign to issue satiny red "Cape-A-Bility" capes to the unemployed in a contest to raise awareness about the agency's services.
Some of the jobless were photographed (see above, and below) duking it out with Dr. Evil in an attempt to be uplifting, though this Orlando Sentinel story suggests some folks felt the effort trivialized the plight of the jobless. Not to mention the expense ($14,200 spent on 6,000 capes and $2,300 on foam cut-outs of Dr. Evil as part of a larger $73,000 media campaign) that some say could have been put to more practical use. As Stuart James, a laid-off construction manager, told the Sentinel: "That," he said, "is absolutely absurd." More photos here.
On a brighter note, Florida in March recorded a gain of 22,600 in over-the-month increases in employment. Context? That's third among the states behind Texas (+37,200) and Missouri (+24,300), and ahead of No. 4 North Carolina (+13,900) and No. 5 Oklahoma (+13,200). For March, 38 states saw upticks in employment; 12 did not.
That's a positive sign for Florida, whose 11.1 percent jobless rate is No. 3 behind Nevada (13.2 percent) and California (12 percent). The national jobless rate is 8.8 percent.
Here's another indicator Florida's showing signs of life. While New Mexico (with its tiny population) experienced the largest over-the-month unemployment rate decrease in March (-0.6 percentage point), Florida was right behind it, as was Oklahoma (-0.4 percentage point each). So Florida, says a U.S. Labor Department survey out this week, dropping from 11.5 percent to 11.1 percent in a month is "statistically significant" while most other states changed little one way or the other.
Bottom line? In March of this year, 1,029,700 Floridians were out of work. But in March of 2010, that number was higher: 1,039,800. That's a pitifully small difference but at least it's going in the right direction. Down.
So grab an anvil. Take that, Dr. Evil Unemployment.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersburg Times