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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

County jobless rate inches up


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The county’s jobless rate inched upward in May to 7.8 percent. That’s slightly higher than April’s rate of 7.5

Hernando County in May had the sixth-highest unemployment rate of all 67 Florida counties.

But at least one person doesn’t see this latest report as all doom and gloom.

“I like this report,” said David Hamilton, operations manager for the Pasco Hernando Workforce Board.

This is one of those cases, he said, where the overall rate can be misleading.

Hamilton said the bigger takeaway is there were 607 more people looking for work in the county in the last month.

“That means they were sitting on the sidelines for a while and now feel confident enough in the recovery to try and find work,” Hamilton said.

It might take them two or three months to find a job but they at least are ready to re-enter the job market, Hamilton added.

Out of a Hernando County labor force of 63,498 in May, there were 58,514 employed.

Hamilton said it’s important not to lose sight that one year ago, Hernando County’s unemployment rate was 9.1 percent.

County Administrator Len Sossamon, who also heads up economic development in Hernando County, said he is concerned about the May numbers.

“In both capacities, I am working hard to attract good, quality jobs to Hernando County which will be able to withstand the ups and downs of the marketplace affecting us from the state, regional and national levels,” Sossamon said in an email. “While we have had a few success stories, they are certainly not enough. We will continue our ongoing efforts to locate companies to recruit to bring jobs to Hernando County. We are working with several good prospects currently and will intensify our efforts.”

The state’s jobless rate in May was 6.1 percent, identical to the national rate.

“Long-term trends demonstrate that Florida’s poised for success,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott stated in a news release. “Private-sector job trends have been on the rise for over three years, our unemployment rate has declined or remained steady for 43 of the last 45 months, and for the fifth month in a row our labor force has grown.”

While the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity release pointed to the steady rise of private-sector jobs and the growth of the labor pool, counties with the highest proportion of government jobs continue to rank among those with the lowest jobless marks.

In May, Walton County had the state’s lowest jobless rate (3.4 percent), followed by Monroe County (3.6 percent); Okaloosa County (4.4 percent); and Alachua and Wakulla counties (4.8 percent each).

Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates were those with relatively high proportions of government employment.

Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate (9.4 percent) in May, followed by Flagler County (8.6 percent), Hamilton County (8.5 percent), Madison County (8.0 percent), and Putnam County (7.9 percent).

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