Unemployed Florida: Take a quick statewide tour on jobless trends
Wake up and good morning. Each month when the state of Florida updates the jobless numbers at the state, metro area and county level, it's always worth a quick survey to see what different parts of the Sunshine State make of the latest snapshot on unemployment. Since December's jobless data came out Friday -- statewide, Florida's unemployment rate remained unchanged from November at 12 percent -- let's take a quick tour at what's been reported since then:
* The St. Petersburg Times points out that Florida's labor force grew slightly in December, up 7,000 for the month and up 33,000 from December 2009. "Though a miniscule increase in a sea of 1.1 million unemployed Floridians, it's at least going in the right direction," says the story. Read it here.
* The Miami Herald noted Miami-Dade's unemployment rate at 13.2 percent -- the highest on record for the county. The paper tells the story of ex-Bank of America executive Joe Farkas, who lost his job in December 2007, two years after he and his wife paid $750,000 for a large home in Miramar that's probably worth about half of that now. Now Farkas, 53, sees his underwater mortgage as a career anchor. He'd pursue jobs elsewhere if it weren't for the financial hit he'd take by selling the house for a loss."Farkas' financial dilemma helps explain why unemployment remains particularly stubborn even as the economy recovers, analysts say. With housing values depressed, the labor market remains unusually static as many of the unemployed can't afford to move in pursuit of a job," the story states. Read it here.
* A Sunshine State News story points out the state's construction industry lost 20,200 jobs last month in the year-over-year comparison (a 5.6 percent decline) and has given back more than half of its jobs since its peak in 2007. The industry’s decline is being felt throughout the state, but most heavily in Flagler and Hendry counties, which are tied for the worst unemployment rate in the state at 15.7 percent. "These are both related to construction losses," Agency for Workforce Innovation economist Rebecca Rust says of Flagler and Hendry’s unemployment rates. Read it here.
* The Orlando Sentinel celebrated the news that metro Orlando continued to lead the state on job gains, with 11,100 new nonagricultural jobs for an increase of 1.1 percent. And while Florida's statewide 12 percent jobless rate remained unchanged, unemployment in metro Orlando dropped to 11.3 percent from 12 percent in November. But, the story says citing University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith, the labor force in the region declined. That means fewer people were actively seeking a job in December when compared to November. That, Snaith says, "makes it an overstated drop." Read it here.
* The Naples Daily News quotes spokeswoman Barbara Hartman of Southwest Florida Works about how unusual it is that people in all fields, on all levels are affected by job losses this time around. Says Hartman, who has been in the employment-related field about 30 years: "We’ve never seen this extent of the professional level employees laid off. It’s hit everyone from top to bottom." Read it here.
* Finally, the Palm Beach Post reports that there may be plenty of people without jobs but some positions are still hard to fill. The paper quotes Boca Raton entrepreneur Bobra Bush, who runs two small companies, who says she tried to hire three workers this month at pay of about $10 to $15 an hour. But job applicants didn't return her calls or didn't show up for interviews. "Crazy as it may seem, there are jobs and we can't fill them," says Bush. Read it here.
Photo: An estimated 4,500 job seekers packed the Coliseum in St. Petersburg earlier this month, where about 50 employers were hiring. Cherie Diez, St. Peterburg Times.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist