Florida employment numbers improve in October — 13th straight month of job gains

The number of Florida jobs crept up for the 13th straight month in October, state officials reported today, an indication that consumers are spending despite worrisome consumer confidence rates.

In Collier County, unemployment dropped to 10.7 percent from 11.4 percent in September — and down from 12.3 percent a year ago. The Department of Economic Opportunity reported upswings in several industries, while government jobs at all levels continued to decline.

The employment uptick, however hesitant in recent months, is good news for Southwest Florida, a region hit hard when construction and real estate tanked four years ago. The number of construction jobs in Florida is still 40,000 lower than it was at its June 2006 peak, said Rebecca Rust, chief economist for the Department of Economic Opportunity.

“The Fort Myers, Naples area was hit hard very early in the recession,” Rust said. “Sometimes the area that has lost the most jobs doesn’t have to gain as many new ones to recover.”

Tourism was a winner statewide and locally.

The state’s tourism authority, Visit Florida, reported a 5.1 percent increase in visitors compared to the same three quarters in 2012. And Jack Wert, Collier County’s tourism director, said visitors to the Paradise Coast increased 17.6 percent between September 2010 and September 2011.

“Through the summer, we did better than 2010 because of all the misinformation about the oil spill,” Wert said. “We got a lot of the visitors back.”

That translated to 40,000 new leisure and hospitality jobs statewide from a year ago. The Naples and Marco Island area’s leisure industry added 1,000 jobs from September to October, the DEO reported.

Overall, however, the area lost 500 jobs (0.5 percent) between October 2010 and last month. Cape Coral-Fort Myers grew by 2.5 percent over the same period.

The largely agricultural Hendry County remains the state’s most out-of-work with 16.1 percent unemployment.

Florida’s statewide unemployment rate in October was 10.3 percent, its lowest since June 2009, but still higher than the nation’s 9 percent rate.

“As we head into the holiday season, it’s great to see we continue to move in the right direction when it comes to job creation and getting people back to work,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. “The businesses in our state have created more than 100,000 jobs so far this year.”

While the state has added 9,500 net new jobs since September and 106,900 since January, some industries, especially construction and the public sector, have seen sharp declines. The construction industry shed 11,600 jobs and the government has lost 8,600 jobs in 12 months.

Scott’s legislative agenda for the upcoming session includes several measures, including cutting taxes and easing regulations, that he says will continue to boost private sector growth.

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