Make us your home page

Florida's unemployment rate needs a jobs revolution ... and soon

When we hear "high speed" these days, thoughts go to the promised bullet train between Tampa and Orlando. But the fastest acceleration in the state still belongs to our soaring jobless rate.

All aboard. Fasten your seat belts. The latest numbers, out this past week, continue to display pedal-to-the-metal upticks in unemployment data. Statewide, the jobless rate climbed to 11.9 percent in January from 8.7 percent a year ago and, hard to believe, just 5 percent in January 2008. That's a doubling, and then some, in only two short years.

Talking to labor economists these days ought to come with a warning for the fainthearted: Proceed at your own risk. These are the job market number crunchers who watched in horror as the country so quickly lost more than 8 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007.

They know how long it may take to climb out of this economic abyss.

"It's hellish," concedes labor economist Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. "When you see how deep is the hole, it's a nightmare."

Barring an overnight 21st century equivalent of the industrial revolution, creating enough jobs to match those lost in just the past 800-plus days will undoubtedly take a long, long time.

We're a clever nation. What's the magic bullet?

Experts debate the effectiveness of every job-creating (or job-saving) idea. They range from traditional tax cuts, tax credits, economic incentives, worker retraining and job sharing to reduced working hours, wage cuts, and extended unemployment benefits.

They also seek help from business recruiting packages, new rounds of federal stimulus funds, federal job corps, Build America Bonds and direct government lending to small businesses.

They're even talking — especially in Florida — about further unleashing the gambling industry as an economic engine, beyond the current deal with the Seminole Indian Tribe.

Three days ago, executives from the Las Vegas Sands, operator of the Venetian and Palazzo on the Vegas strip, pitched sympathetic Tallahassee lawmakers on the idea of creating up to six gambling destinations in Florida. Each would cost $2 billion or more to build and, the Vegas chieftains claim, lure gamblers from several continents.

Other job creation proposals from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist include $57.4 million in corporate income tax cuts, restoring a tax holiday on back-to-school clothes and supplies, delaying an increase in the state unemployment compensation tax and cutting red tape for licenses and permits.

Last week also saw two investment funds unveil new promises to invest in Florida companies. The Florida Opportunity Fund, created in 2007 to supplement venture-capital funds here with state money, now totals $23 million. On Thursday, the fund said it will commit up to $4 million to the Stonehenge Growth Equity venture firm.

Stonehenge already has invested in more than 17 young Florida firms from Tampa's Pilgrim Software to Melbourne sensor company Authentec.

And two days ago at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp unveiled a new fund — a partnership of Orlando's Florida Mezzanine Fund and CapitalSouth Partners — to serve as one of the state's largest sources of private venture funding. One immediate investment in a Fort Lauderdale health care products company, the new fund bragged Thursday, could generate 200 new jobs in the coming year.

Enter economic reality. On Friday, another health care business, UnitedHealth Group in Tamarac near Fort Lauderdale, effectively erased those 200 potential jobs by announcing plans to lay off 191 of its own employees.

One step forward, one step back.

To be sure, all these employment ideas, deals and partnerships help Florida. A bit.

In the past year, Florida lost 303,200 jobs. So just to recapture one year of statewide job losses, Florida would have to generate an average of 25,277 jobs every month for 12 months.

Tampa Bay alone would have to generate 3,492 jobs every month for a full year to recoup the 41,900 it lost last year.

That's how daunting the comeback will be in the Sunshine State.

Tampa Bay's jobless rate hit a dizzying 13.1 percent in January. That's up from 9.5 percent the previous January and more than double the 5.3 percent of January 2008.

Two Januaries ago, only 69,069 folks were considered jobless in this metro area. A year later, January 2009, that number was 123,807. This January it was 171,453.

These are big, getting-bigger-fast numbers. Federal, state and private efforts so far feel like fingers plugging leaks in a dike.

So, Floridians, keep plugging. What choice do we have?

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

fast facts

States and the jobless: Where Florida stands

(As of the month of January)

• Florida was one of 30 states and the District of Columbia to record over-the-month unemployment rate increases, while nine states registered rate decreases, and 11 states had no rate change.

• The largest over-the-month increase in employment occurred in California (+32,500), followed by Illinois (+26,000), New York (+25,500), Washington (+18,900), and Minnesota (+15,600).

• The largest over-the-month decreases in employment occurred in Missouri and Ohio (-12,800 each), followed by Kentucky (-11,800), New Jersey (-9,100), Florida (-6,100), and Nevada (-5,700).

• Michigan again recorded the highest unemployment rate among the states, 14.3 percent in January. Right behind were Nevada, 13.0 percent; Rhode Island, 12.7 percent; South Carolina, 12.6 percent; and California, 12.5 percent. Florida's jobless rate was 11.9 percent.

• North Dakota continued to register the lowest jobless rate, 4.2 percent in January, followed by Nebraska, 4.6 percent; and South Dakota, 4.8 percent.

• The jobless rates in California and South Carolina set new highs, as did the rates in Georgia (10.4 percent) and North Carolina (11.1 percent). Florida's 11.9 percent matches a state high set in 1975.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

County-by-county unemployment rates

RegionJan. 2010Dec. 2009Jan. 2009
Citrus14.6 percent13.6 percent11.6 percent
Hernando15.7 percent14.9 percent12.1 percent
Hillsborough12.7 percent12.1 percent9 percent
Pasco14.3 percent13.3 percent10.5 percent
Pinellas12.7 percent12 percent9.4 percent
Flagler (highest)17.1 percent16.1 percent13.8 percent
Liberty (lowest)7.5 percent6.6 percent5.5 percent
Tampa Bay*13.1 percent12.4 percent9.5 percent
Florida11.9 percent11.7 percent8.7 percent
Nation9.7 percent10 percent7.7 percent

* Combines Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties

Note: County and Tampa Bay area numbers are not seasonally adjusted. Florida and U.S. numbers are seasonally adjusted.

Source: Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation

Florida's unemployment rate needs a jobs revolution ... and soon 03/13/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 10:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker


    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims


    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza


    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code


    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]