Another 27,000 Floridians joined the unemployment line in August, as the state's jobless rate rose from an adjusted 6.2 percent to 6.5 percent, worse than the national average and the highest it has been since January 1995, according to numbers released Friday.
Throughout Tampa Bay, workers in call centers, construction and sales have been left searching for work. The metropolitan area including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater has lost nearly 22,000 jobs in the past year, second in the state to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach area. And job losses show no signs of slowing. Since the start of the month, hundreds of workers throughout the region have been affected by layoffs, bankruptcies and business closings.
"My feeling is that we'll have rising unemployment through the spring of 2009,'' said University of Florida economist David Denslow.
Construction, business services and manufacturing have suffered the largest job losses, overwhelming employment gains made in health care and hospitality. Statewide, there are 226,000 more people out of work than there were last August, making Florida's job market the fourth-fastest shrinking in the U.S., according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In Hernando County, where the unemployment rate hit 9 percent, more people are out of work, and out of work longer, said Dave Hamilton, a job counselor for Career Central, an employment resource center serving Pasco and Hernando counties.
"That's how you can tell how bad it really is," Hamilton said. "When you have a whole year of 9 percent unemployment, businesses can afford to be a bit choosy when it comes to hiring."
Hamilton estimated that more than 600 people showed up Wednesday for a job fair sponsored by Career Central.
"We have some people who have been registered with us for two or three months, and we haven't been able to place them," said Lou Pappas, Tampa branch manager of Spherion Corp., a national staffing agency. The company has been able to place workers in sales and telemarketing jobs, and in at least one recession-proof business: collections.
Leonard Bienasz, 47, was laid off from GE this year after 29 years with the company. He's gone from an annual salary of $50,000 to a weekly unemployment check of $175. His wife has taken temporary jobs to help support their two daughters, 10 and 12, but he estimated that their income this year will be 20 percent of what it was. They have always been frugal. Their house in Land O'Lakes is paid for, but they are dipping into their savings.
"Financially, we're pretty well set," Bienasz said. "But it's only a matter of time."
Times staff writers Jim Thorner and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Asjylyn Loder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3117.