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Hernando's unemployment rate drops to 7.8 %

Published:   |   Updated: November 24, 2013 at 01:58 PM

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Lynne Kilchriss moved to Timber Pines from the Atlanta area three months ago and was at Career Central on Thursday afternoon, going through the computerized job listings with a volunteer.

Kilchriss worked 13 years in the manufacturing sector but was open to any job.

"I'm looking for anything that will get my foot through the door," said Kilchriss, who updated her resume while at Career Central. "I just want to prove myself but in today's market it's tough."

Career Central officials in Spring Hill were waiting to see if Hernando County's unemployment rate had improved in October. After the government shutdown forced a delay in reporting data, interest was keener than usual.

The numbers are in and they show Hernando's unemployment rate for October was 7.8 percent. That's down from 8.2 percent in September and lower than the 9.8 percent rate of October 2012.

Among Florida's 67 counties, Hernando's rate was 13th highest in October.

Dave Hamilton, operations manager for the Pasco-Hernando Workforce Board, called the latest unemployment numbers encouraging. He said Hernando has turned the corner by dropping below the 8 percent mark.

During the worst of the recession in 2010, Hernando's unemployment rate reached 15.8 percent.

"We haven't seen (these numbers) in forever," Hamilton said.

The county's labor force was 62,920 in October, or 661 people less than the previous month. But it was higher than the previous year by 336 people.

"Companies are not laying off at recession levels so there's some health there," Hamilton said. "Combine that with the positive trend in unemployment figures and the recovery has finally hit Hernando County."

Steve Wilson, business services lead at Career Central, said he remains upbeat about the local job market. "I'm an optimist," he said.

Wilson said three employers were inside the agency last week recruiting and that's a positive sign.

One of those recruiters was Golden Corral, which is coordinating its hiring through Career Central.

James Sawyer, operating partner with Golden Corral, said as of Thursday afternoon he had hired about 80 of the planned 130-member crew.

Most of those jobs, he said, are part-time because his Golden Corral franchise - similar to other corporations - cannot afford to offer health insurance to all its full-timers.

"Since Obamacare, that's a thing of the past," Sawyer said. "It's too cost prohibitive."

Sawyer said the restaurant is scheduled to open Dec. 9 at the corner of U.S. 19 and Plyna Street, north of the Lowe's Home Improvement store.

Meanwhile, the statewide unemployment rate for October was 6.7 percent, down from 6.8 percent in September.

Florida's rate has remained below the national average of 7.3 percent since March 2013 when Hernando had the second highest jobless rate in the state.

"This is our eighth month below the national average," Gov. Rick Scott noted in a news release. "Over the last two months, the state has added more than 67,000 private sector jobs. This is great news for Florida families."

Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate in October at 12.0 percent. The lowest was Monroe, with 3.8 percent.

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