Jobless rate continues drop in Feb., hitting 7.7% in Florida, 7.4% in Lee and 6.9% in Collier

Specialist Christian Sanfilippo, foreground right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Stocks turned mixed Thursday after two days of triple-digit rallies. Big-name companies reported higher quarterly earnings and the government said that the jobless claims are falling, but impending budget cuts cast a pall. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Specialist Christian Sanfilippo, foreground right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013. Stocks turned mixed Thursday after two days of triple-digit rallies. Big-name companies reported higher quarterly earnings and the government said that the jobless claims are falling, but impending budget cuts cast a pall. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Corey Perrine/Staff
Qualification papers wait to be filled out on a table Feb. 19, 2013, at Golden Gate Community Center in Golden Gate. Experience Works in partnership with Southwest Florida Works, was helping people 55+ at a recruitment fair, who have been out of work for a year or more, find jobs. Recently, Gov. Rick Scott has asked for $289.4 million for the state’s workforce boards. Employment places like Southwest Florida Works depend on state funding and grants to stay afloat and help the public secure jobs.

Photo by COREY PERRINE, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Qualification papers wait to be filled out on a table Feb. 19, 2013, at Golden Gate Community Center in Golden Gate. Experience Works in partnership with Southwest Florida Works, was helping people 55+ at a recruitment fair, who have been out of work for a year or more, find jobs. Recently, Gov. Rick Scott has asked for $289.4 million for the state’s workforce boards. Employment places like Southwest Florida Works depend on state funding and grants to stay afloat and help the public secure jobs.

Southwest Florida’s unemployment rate dropped a half-percentage point in February in both Collier and Lee counties, a larger decline than the state’s though the rate likewise dropped in Florida.

“It’s all good news,” said Jim Wall, director of business development for the Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board.

Collier County’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in February, down from 7.5 percent in January and 8.3 percent a year ago. In Lee, the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January and 9.3 percent a year ago, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.

Unemployment hit 7.7 percent in Florida in February — a 0.2 percent decline from January, the state employment agency reported.

Wall said he’s cautiously optimistic that the region’s unemployment rate will hold steady for the next two quarters.

“As we look to diversify our economy, we must not ignore tourism and health care, which are the industries that are driving our job growth,” Wall said.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that since December 2010, Florida has created 294,200 private-sector jobs. Florida ranked third in the jobs increased throughout the nation and Florida ranked second in the largest decline in unemployment rates among the states.

Unemployment rates fell in 22 states in February from January, a sign that hiring gains are benefiting many parts of the country. The Labor Department said unemployment rates rose in 12 states and were unchanged in 16.

Florida’s February unemployment rate was the lowest since October 2008.

Scott spoke about jobless rates while visiting Amcor Rigid Plastics USA Inc. in Orlando, a plastics manufacturing company. It opened a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in January, hiring 29 employees with a capital investment of $20 million.

“With an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, the lowest in more than four years, and nearly 300,000 private sector jobs created over the last two years, we have proof that it’s working,” Scott said in a statement. “Our efforts to reduce taxes, pay down state debt and grow the economy demonstrates our success in growing jobs for Florida families. While today’s announcement is great news, we know we have more work to do to ensure that every Florida family that wants a job can get one.”

In Southwest Florida, Wall said, there was some gain in construction jobs for the first time in several years. Moreover, there is an increase in people entering the workforce.

As the economy continues to stabilize, Wall said, it’s important to create opportunities for year-round employment.

“It’s a very positive sign for the economy,” Florida Gulf Coast University economist Gary Jackson said.

Traditionally, February is one of Southwest Florida’s peak months for employment. Normally, Jackson said, the region might expect the unemployment rate to be 5 to 6 percent for the month.

In Collier, there were 10,472 residents without jobs in February, while there were 21,260 without work in Lee. Jackson noted that the labor force in Collier is increasing — it went from 151,042 in January to 152,074 in February.

Dave Dart, managing partner of Morisey-Dart Group, a Naples-based executive recruitment firm and MRINetwork affiliate, said tourism and construction are booming in Southwest Florida.

“It’s all starting to roll, so I’m not surprised with those numbers at all,” Dart said. “When you drive around the county, look at the number of new subdivisions that are finally coming up.”

Dart noted the time period to hire a worker is getting shorter and the market is more competitive.

“We are absolutely seeing the resurgence,” Dart said.

EARLIER:

Unemployment continued to drop last month, hitting 7.7 percent in Florida in February, the state employment agency reported Friday.

Collier County’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.9 percent in February, down from 7.5 percent in January and 8.3 percent a year ago. In Lee, the unemployment rate fell to 7.4 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January and 9.3 percent a year ago, the Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.

In Collier, there were 10,472 residents without jobs in February. There were 21,260 in Lee.

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday announced that since December 2010, Florida has created 294,200 private-sector jobs and state’s February 2013 unemployment rate decreased 0.2 percentage points to 7.7 percent, the lowest since October 2008.

"It's all good news," said Jim Wall, director of business development for the Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board.

Wall said he is cautiously optimistic that the unemployment rate will hold steady for the next two quarters.

"As we look to diversify our economy, we must not ignore tourism and health care, which are the industries which are driving our job growth," said Wall.

Florida ranked third in the jobs increased throughout the nation and Florida ranked second in the largest decline in unemployment rates.

For the first time in several years, Wall said Southwest Florida saw some gain in construction jobs. Moreover, there is an increase in people entering the workforce.

As the economy continues to stabilize, Wall said it's important to create opportunities for year-round employment.

"It's a very positive sign for the economy," said Florida Gulf Coast University economist Gary Jackson.

Traditionally, February is one of in Southwest Florida's peak months for employment.

Normally, Jackson said they would expect unemployment rate to be 5 to 6 percent. But even so, the unemployment rate dropping in Collier and Lee is a change from last month.

He noted to the labor force in Collier increasing.

Gov. Scott made his announcement at Amcor Rigid Plastics USA Inc. in Orlando, a plastics manufacturing company, which opened a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in January, hiring 29 employees with a capital investment of $20 million.

“With an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, the lowest in more than four years, and nearly 300,000 private sector jobs created over the last two years, we have proof that it's working," Scott said. "Our efforts to reduce taxes, pay down state debt and grow the economy, demonstrates our success in growing jobs for Florida families. While today’s announcement is great news, we know we have more work to do to ensure that every Florida family that wants a job can get one.”

Over the month, the state experienced an increase of 7,700 private-sector jobs, while 139,200 private sector jobs have been created since February 2012. Since Scott took office, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped 3.4 percentage points, the second largest drop in the nation.

Unemployment rates fell in 22 U.S. states in February from January, a sign that hiring gains are benefiting many parts of the country. The Labor Department says unemployment rates rose in 12 states and were unchanged in 16.

EARLIER:

Gov. Scott looks for good news in Florida job numbers for Feb.

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott is looking for more improvement when the state releases its February unemployment figures.

Florida's unemployment dipped to its lowest level in more than four years in January when it fell to 7.8 percent.

Scott has spent much of his time in recent weeks reminding Floridians that things have gotten better since he took office in January 2011. Scott ran on a promise to create 700,000 new jobs in Florida over a seven-year period and says 282,000 have found work since he became governor.

The February numbers are scheduled for release Friday.

Florida is among 32 states that experienced statistically significant positive changes in their employment in the past year. Florida's 127,500 new jobs trailed only California and Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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