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County unemployment rate drops to 8.5 percent

Published:   |   Updated: September 21, 2013 at 06:18 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County's unemployment rate was 8.5 percent in August, down from 9 percent in July, continuing a positive trend that began in March.

Out of a labor force of 63,575, there were 58,187 employed in August, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

"We have not had five months with an average (rate) this low since July 2008," said Dave Hamilton, operations manager for the Pasco-Hernando Workforce Board. "This has been a long recession for us."

The county's employment picture started improving this past March, when it weighed in at 8.3 percent. It's been hovering near that mark ever since.

And even though there has been a drop in the workforce, there has been an increase in employment. There were 173 more people employed in Hernando County in August than there were in July.

And, if one goes back a year, there are 2,400 more Hernando County residents employed than August 2012, when the unemployment rate was 10.9 percent.

Still, Hamilton said he hopes the mid-8 percent range is not the "new normal."

"For us to be healthy, it needs to go down at least another two points," he said. "Two points in Hernando County would mean that another 1,000 people who have employment here."

August represents the last month of summer employment. Hamilton said he looks forward to September's numbers to see how new school district hires affect the rate.

Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7 percent in August 2013, down 0.1 percentage point from a month earlier and down 1.6 percentage points from 8.6 percent a year ago.

The state's August rate was the lowest since September 2008 when it also was 7 percent. There were 656,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 9,391,000.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in August. Florida's unemployment rate was 0.3 percentage point lower than the U.S. rate and was below the national rate for the sixth consecutive month.

Gov. Rick Scott called the August statistics "great news for Florida families."

"This is evidence that our pro-growth and business friendly policies are working," Scott said in a press release.

v vIn related news, Property Appraiser John Emerson on Friday released a breakdown of Value Adjustment Board petitions filed for 2013. It shows the total number of petitions were 168, a 33 percent drop from 255 last year. Of the 168 petitions filed, 29 were by the property owner and the rest (83 percent) were by tax representatives.

By law, property owners can appeal the appraiser's numbers if they can prove an error was made as to the calculated value of their property.

In recent years, people have hired tax firms to represent them and do the workload.

(352) 544-5290

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