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Job-loss onslaught is fact of life in Florida

Is it my imagination or is the news of area jobs being outsourced to cheaper, foreign lands accelerating? Sadly — if true — there's a survivor's logic to it. The Florida economy is still struggling mightily and companies are increasingly motivated to trim jobs here if they think they can get similar work done for less overseas.

The pain would not be so raw if the state was not already suffering from unemployment that in some metro areas is soaring past 7 and even 8 percent.

Wake up, former Sen. Phil Gramm. We are not, as you stated last week, in just a "mental recession." Nor are we a "nation of whiners." At least not right now.

Last week, Coca-Cola stopped by to explain its plans to outsource 150, or 15 percent, of its white-collar jobs at its big accounting center in Brandon to Guatemala, India and Poland.

"We're optimizing business and gaining efficiency," Coke spokesman Norman Ross explained.

In June, about 95 factory workers at Baxter Healthcare Corp. in Largo learned their jobs are heading to Singapore by the start of 2009. The Illinois company says the production of home kidney dialysis machines is being shifted because most components come from Asia and most customers are outside this country.

In Oldsmar, Nielsen continues to outsource work to Tata Consultancy Services, which is importing cheaper India workers to replace soon-to-be-displaced employees here.

"This is part of our companywide effort to integrate and simplify our systems, improve quality, strengthen our market position and create investment funding for future growth," Nielsen spokesman Gary Holmes told a Times reporter last month.

Ditto over at the Tampa Tribune and Miami Herald. Both newspapers are outsourcing some of their production or archiving jobs to India.

• • •

On top of this outsourcing trend are the larger concentrations of plain, old-fashioned job losses in Florida.

There's a very tangible reason the state unemployment rate — 3.5 percent only a year ago — is pushing north of 5.5 percent.

In the Tampa Bay market alone, cutbacks are widespread. They include announced cuts last week of 39 local jobs by Tampa's Sage Software Healthcare as part of a national reduction of 235 employees, as well as 62 Pinellas Park jobs trimmed at Oak Park School operated by Community Education Partners out of Nashville.

Other losses ranged from four jobs at Sun Microsystems in Tampa; 92 positions (on top of 108 jobs cut in April) eliminated last month at Tampa's Lear Corp., a maker of interior systems for autos; and 72 positions cut at GE Healthcare in Tampa.

Statewide, in the past three months, businesses that have unveiled job cuts of 100 or more include Pensacola's Choice Point Precision Marketing (135 workers), Fort Lauderdale's American Airlines (221), Ocala's Emergency Medical Services Alliance (233) and Merritt Island's Wyle Aerospace Group (248).

Two whoppers stand out. In June, Space Gateway Support at the Kennedy Space Center announced cuts of 1,725. And 2008's biggest to date? Albertsons, with a statewide cutback of 5,131, including 1,700 in the Tampa Bay area.

They all add up to sobering numbers. They cross broad swaths of the economy, from space and education to transportation and manufacturing.

Some jobs will come back. Others are simply gone, as workers struggle on their way to retraining and, with a little luck, new employment.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

>>FAST FACTS

Florida unemployment

Best and worst metro areas:

Lowest rates

4. (tie) Pensacola and Miami-Fort Lauderdale:
4.9 percent

3. Panama City-Lynn Haven: 4.5 percent

2. Tallahassee: 4.1 percent

1. (tie) Gainesville and Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin: 3.8 percent

Highest rates

4. Cape Coral-Fort Myers: 7.1 percent

3. Sebastian-Vero Beach: 7.2 percent

2. Punta Gorda: 7.4 percent

1. Palm Coast: 8.3 percent

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2008

Job-loss onslaught is fact of life in Florida 07/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2008 9:22pm]
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