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Jobless rate at 5-year low

Published:   |   Updated: April 21, 2013 at 10:03 AM

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Hernando County’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in March, down from 9.2 percent the previous month.

That’s the lowest rate since June 2008, when it was 8 percent.

“This is good news because the labor force, the number of people counted in our area as working or looking for work … has increased,” said Dave Hamilton, operations manager for the Pasco-Hernando Workforce Board.

Out of a labor force in Hernando County of 62,533, there were 57,269 people employed. Last month’s labor force was 62,454.

The county ranks ninth highest of all 67 Florida counties in unemployment, with Hendry coming in the highest (10 percent) and Monroe the lowest (3.8 percent).

But considering where Hernando County has been (11.6 percent a year ago), it is a noteworthy improvement, Hamilton said.

Florida’s unemployment rate dipped to 7.5 percent in March, down from a revised February rate of 7.8 percent, to reach the lowest point since October 2008, the Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.

That’s the second largest drop in the nation as of February.

Hernando County reached a record high unemployment rate of 15.8 percent in January 2010 and it stayed high all that year and into the next.

“In general, we shouldn’t celebrate 8.4 percent but since it’s been so bad, we have to say the numbers are heading in the right direction,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the numbers will improve with more job growth and the influx of an estimated 550 employees next year when Accuform Signs opens its new building.

The state this month shut down all Internet sweepstakes cafes, which affected about 150 workers in Hernando County.

That hit will be reflected in April’s statistics and it will be interesting to see how it affects the overall rate, Hamilton said.

Gov. Rick Scott said in a press release, “It is great news that our unemployment rate is below the national average at 7.5 percent and that we created more than 32,000 jobs in March.

“In a little over two years since I’ve taken office, we’ve created more than 320,000 private sector jobs — and we are now closing in on the halfway point to our goal of creating 700,000 jobs in seven years.”

Florida’s unemployment rate has now declined year-over-year for 29 consecutive months. Initial claims for Reemployment Assistance benefits were down by 10.4 percent from one year ago.

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