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Hernando County jobless rate remains second highest in Florida

Hernando County unemployment rose to 12.7 percent in February, second-highest in the state once again.

And the news wasn't much better in Pasco and Citrus counties, which also made the Top 10, with 11.3 percent and 11.6 percent unemployment, respectively.

Over the last year, about 3,700 Hernando residents out of a 63,400-person workforce have lost their jobs, swelling the total number of job-seekers to nearly 8,100.

Pasco, which experienced a 0.5 percentage-point jump in February, saw the largest monthly increase in the Tampa Bay area. The county now counts 22,218 jobless residents among its 197,111-person workforce.

The state Agency for Workforce Innovation only counts individuals who are actively seeking work, and doesn't include those who have had their hours or wages cut as part of the economic downturn.

The continued increase in the region's unemployment rate doesn't surprise Elizabeth Fields, executive director of the Suncoast Harvest Food Bank, which serves Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

In February and March, the bank experienced a 42 percent increase in the number of people who line up on the day the agency hands out food each month, Fields said.

"I'm noting a change in recipients," she said. "Probably half were donors at one time."

Florida has received nearly $1.4 billion in federal stimulus money for unemployment compensation. Last week, the workforce agency began mailing and depositing an additional $25 in weekly support for families who qualify.

Kenneth Russ, a vice president at the Pasco Hernando Workforce Board and Career Central, said his offices have been adding staff and increasing hours to meet the demand of local job-seekers.

The largest office, in New Port Richey, recently extended its hours to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays. It is also now open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

The workforce board is planning to use stimulus funds to offer a summer youth program and additional training to help individuals upgrade their skills.

"We tell everyone, the job you had when you got laid off is going to be totally different when you go back," Russ said. "Staying current is very important."

The statewide unemployment rate for February was 9.4 percent. Nationwide, it was 8.9 percent.

Fast facts

Hernando County unemployment

February 2009: 12.7%

Statewide rank: No. 2

January 2009: 12.4%

February 2008: 7.0%

Sources: Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, Labor Market Statistics Center, Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program and the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fast facts

Pasco County unemployment

February 2009: 11.3%

Statewide rank: No. 10

January 2009: 10.8%

February 2008: 5.9%

Sources: Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, Labor Market Statistics Center, Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program and the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

Hernando County jobless rate remains second highest in Florida 03/27/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 7:57pm]

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