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Florida unemployment rate surges to 8.6 percent

Florida's unemployment rate zoomed to 8.6 percent in January, representing 800,000 jobless out of a labor force of 9.3 million, according to figures released this morning.

The rate, the highest since September 1992, is up a full percentage point from the revised December rate.

In the Tampa Bay area, the unemployment rate reached 9.7 percent as the region has shed more than 42,000 jobs year over year. The one-month jumps in unemployment were sizeable in every bay area county:

• Pinellas posted an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, up from 8.2 percent in December.

• Hillsborough's rate was 9.1 percent, up from 7.9 percent.

• Pasco's rate was 10.8 percent, up from 9.3 percent.

• Citrus' rate was 11.4 percent, up from 9.9 percent.

• Hernando's unemployment rate skyrocketed to 12.4 percent, up from 10.8 percent.

"Everyone in this industry is pretty much shell-shocked at this point," said Scott Brown, chief economist for Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg. "Job losses have been so elevated that it's just a crisis of confidence."

One positive of the sharp rate of descent, Brown said, is it increases the odds the economy will see a sharp, V-shaped recovery once it does snap back. Earlier, there has been a widespread expectation that the economy would linger after bottoming-out and post a gradual, U-shaped recovery.

The state's analysis also revised figures from previous months, indicating when the state shed and in some cases added more jobs than previously thought. Year over year, Florida has lost 355,700 jobs, based on the revised estimates.

Typically, Florida relies on household surveys and employer surveys from the federal government to calculate the unemployment rate and job losses or gains. But once a year, it's required to revise its database using unemployment compensation tax records and other more detailed information.

National workforce statistics, which are running a month ahead of Florida's, also came out this morning. The Labor Department reported the country's unemployment rate jumped to a 25-year high of 8.1 percent in February with employers cutting 651,000 jobs.

The government also revised its figures for previous months indicating deeper payroll reductions than thought. The economy lost 681,000 jobs in December and another 655,000 in January, it reported.

Jeff Harrington may be reached at harrington@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8242.

Florida unemployment rate surges to 8.6 percent 03/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 12:38pm]
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