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Job rate to grow, but who'll do the work?

It's not the gold or silver. Not even a bronze.

In fact, coming in at No. 16 isn't usually thought of as something to rave about.

But when Pasco County is ranked as having the 16th fastest-growing economy out of Florida's 67 counties, it's nothing to sneeze at.

A forecast released by the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research ranked Pasco in the top quarter of the state for predicted job growth between 1995 and 2010.

"For us to be as high as No. 16 in the state, that's pretty strong," said Kendall Spencer, president of the Pasco County Committee of 100. "I was pleased to see there are actually some solid statistics from a third-party source that verify what I've been saying all along. I wasn't totally surprised."

According to the forecast, Pasco will see a 2.8 percent annual increase in job growth. This amounts to an estimated 35,200 more jobs over the 15-year period.

Pasco's growth rate "is much higher than the national average (1.3 percent) and it's much higher than the state average (2.2 percent)," said David Lenze, economist at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The forecast is based on population, age distribution, interest rates and productivity, among other factors.

The job outlook is promising, but some Pasco employers are already facing difficulty in filling certain positions, said Nancy Payne, the Committee of 100's existing business and industry manager.

"It's kind of a Catch-22 at this point," she said. "It's nice to have the job growth, but if your unemployment rate is low and you don't have the people to fill jobs, it can be frustrating."

But since the job growth is projected over the next 15 years, Payne thinks the county will have time to build its supply of employees. More and more people are moving into the county each year. Also, road improvements such as the construction of the Suncoast Parkway will start, allowing more workers to commute from other counties.

Commuters have interesting effects on the economies where they work and live. But it's hard to say if they are good or bad.

People who earn a paycheck in one county but live in another tend to spend their money closer to home, Lenze said.

However, even if commuters coming into Pasco County were to make just some of their purchases here, it would be good.

According to another recent study, residents are more likely to buy a car in another county than they are to buy groceries in the next county, Lenze said.

In general, 14 percent of Floridians buy cars in counties other than where they live.

But among commuters, 31 percent buy cars outside of their home counties.

So if Pasco gets more commuters and they make some of their larger purchases where they work, it would be good for the economy.

And clearly more jobs in Pasco mean fewer people commuting out of the county.

According to the 1990 census, the most recent figures available, 37,194 Pasco residents left the county for work, but just 13,848 people from other counties came to Pasco for their jobs.

Lenze cites another study that found Pasco residents make 86 percent of purchases in their home county, 14 percent elsewhere.

"Clearly it's the commuters that would probably be doing a lot of the buying that's outside," Lenze said.

So if Pasco lands 35,200 jobs over the next 15 years, there will be more positions to keep residents on this side of the county line _ and more jobs to lure workers and spenders from the other side.

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