More of the Southwest Florida workforce was employed in February than in January, continuing a positive trend, Florida’s top economic agency reported Friday.
The rate of job growth in Collier County is among the fastest in the state, behind only a small region of the Panhandle and Vero Beach on the Treasure Coast, according to monthly employment figures released by the state Department of Economic Opportunity.
Collier County’s unemployment rate was 8.3 percent last month, down from 8.7 percent in January. It was 10.2 percent the previous year.
Naples Mayor John Sorey said he sees tangible evidence of a recovery all over town. The number of building permits is rising, he said. And big projects are underway, perhaps most visibly the expansion of Phil McCabe’s properties on Fifth Avenue South.
Plus, tourism is up, rebounding from the specter of the oil spill that hurt visitor numbers in 2010.
“There’s no question when you see tourism up in double digits, you can stretch your staff only so far,” Sorey said.
At U.S. 41 and 3rd Avenue South, Sorey said developers are planning a 58,000-square-foot furniture store.
“Some pretty smart folks feel like there’s going to be some growth in Naples,” he said.
Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4 percent in February down from 9.6 percent in January, marking the third straight month below 10 percent. It was the lowest rate in three years.
But unemployment is still worse in Florida than in the rest of the country, where 8.3 percent of those seeking jobs are out of work.
In Lee County, the February unemployment rate dropped from 9.9 percent in January to 9.4 percent. It was 11.4 percent a year ago.
Gov. Rick Scott celebrated the news of 10,000 new jobs in the state. He promised to add 700,000 jobs in seven years.
“Florida’s drop in its unemployment rate and increase in private sector job creation continues to prove our state is definitely headed in the right direction,” Scott said in a statement.
The government continues to shed jobs, however. Led by Scott’s crusade to cut public spending, there are 14,400 fewer public sector jobs in Florida than a year ago.
That doesn’t include local government, which shed jobs over the year but added 3,000 from January to February.
“We resumed filling several vacant positions in our building department because of our growth in home construction,” said Naples City Manager Bill Moss, who cited 41 new home permits in recent weeks.
“It’s almost a universal opinion in Naples that this has been a very good season,” he said.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.