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Florida's jobless rate tripled in four years, but it's not hopeless out there

On a weekend stop for subs at Jimmy John's, my wife, a high school teacher, greeted a former student at lunch. He's African-American, a senior this coming fall who said he could not find any work this summer. He volunteers at a St. Petersburg community center helping with younger kids.

My son cobbled together some modest jobs this summer, including a stint with the U.S. Census Bureau, while attending college classes. His census job was one of 20,000 short-time positions in Florida let go in June by the federal government.

My niece, a lawyer coming off a few years as full-time mom and hoping to relocate from Atlanta to Tampa, looked for six months among area law firms. Nothing. She found work instead at a prominent Jacksonville firm that agreed to her need, given a young family, for limited hours.

During a recent visit with Clearwater airplane parts maker Aerosonic Corp., CEO Doug Hillman said the company has multiple job openings, but finding the right skills in our market is tough.

And at Monday's job fair at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, more than 3,000 folks showed up looking for work — including some already employed full time but prowling for better opportunities.

Florida job watchers estimate there were 214,000 online job postings in June, 28 percent more than a year ago.

I mention these anecdotes because, together, they show how complicated it is to capture this troubled job market in a few monthly statistics.

It's bleak out there. But not for everyone, not every day.

Nationally, young adults between 18 and 29 face dreadful unemployment and underemployment numbers. The numbers are far worse for young African-Americans and Hispanics. A Gallup poll out Monday says 13.3 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds are jobless and 16.3 percent work part time but want full-time jobs.

Combined, that equals 29.6 percent of today's young adults — almost a third — who are jobless or underemployed. The number is half that for those ages 50 to 64.

No less painful is the job situation for those with different levels of education. Here's a U.S. breakdown, by education, again combining jobless and underemployed numbers:

• No college: 23.9 percent.

• Some college: 19.6 percent

• College grad: 12.9 percent.

• Postgrad work: 9.5 percent.

It's a daunting time in the job market. But it is a horrific market for the young lacking college or high school credentials. Get that degree.

True, Florida's jobless rate fell in June to 11.4 percent from 11.7 in May. It's still up from 10.5 percent in June 2009.

Talk about a rapid change. Only four years ago this month, Florida's jobless rate hit a modern low of 3.3 percent. Here's what this paper wrote back in July 2006:

"The Tampa Bay area was once again third in the state in job creation, behind Miami and the Orlando area, with 33,000 new jobs over the past year. For the past several months, Florida has had the fastest rate of job growth and lowest unemployment rate among the 10 most populous states."

Heady times while they lasted. Since June 2009, Tampa Bay has lost about 12,000 jobs.

Now, the idea of Florida returning to low single-digit unemployment seems far, far away. Maybe even a generation or more away.

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

Florida's jobless rate tripled in four years, but it's not hopeless out there 07/19/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 19, 2010 9:05pm]
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