Florida Unemployment Up Slightly In March

Apr 18, 2014

TALLAHASSEE (The News Service of Florida) — For the first time since the middle of 2010, the state's monthly jobless rate went up in March.

Jobs officials say the negative movement is in part because more people are in the labor pool.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday that while the number of people with jobs has increased, the state's unemployment mark rose from 6.2 percent in February to 6.3 percent in March.

A release from Gov. Rick Scott's office briefly referred to the increase, instead focusing on the creation of private sector jobs across Florida during the past month, year and since January 2011, when the governor took office.

"Today I am proud to announce that Florida businesses created more than 20,000 jobs in March," Scott, who is campaigning for re-election on job growth, also said on Twitter.

The bulk of the new jobs were in service-related fields, topped by leisure and hospitality, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

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The last time the state's monthly mark — based on estimates of the number of people employed and actively seeking employment — increased was in August 2010. At that time, the figure rose from 11.2 percent to 11.3 percent, and an estimated 1.03 million Floridians were out of work.

There are currently an estimated 606,000 jobless Floridians.

Florida's jobless rate, which remains below the national figure of 6.7 percent, had held at 6.2 percent the prior three months.

The latest monthly mark came as the state estimated an increase of 22,900 overall jobs in March, with 20,900 of those in the private sector. The growth could be a sign of optimism in the workforce as people believe work is available. The workforce increased by about 59,000 in March to just under 9.6 million.

Jesse Panuccio, Scott's jobs chief, said in a release that the increased employment reflects "renewed confidence among job seekers."

In February, state economists had projected that more than half of the state's drop in unemployment between December 2011 and December 2013 was due to people exiting the labor force or delaying entry.

The number of people working is based on a surveyed sample of employers.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida's February to March employment growth was the highest of any state with a statistically significant employment change, ahead of 19,400 in North Carolina and 14,600 in Georgia.

Also, the 225,100 new jobs reported by Florida in the past year trails only California's 325,100 and the 310,000 in Texas.

Across the state, Walton County in the Panhandle, joined Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, as holding the lowest jobless mark.

Both counties stood at 3.8 percent in March. Monroe went up from 3.7 percent in February, while Walton, a spring break destination, dropped from 4.2 percent.

Walton's neighbors also had marked decreases in March.

Bay County fell from 6.4 percent to 5.8 percent, Santa Rosa County dropped from 5.9 percent to 5.7 percent, and Okaloosa County went from 5.0 percent to 4.8 percent.

At the other end, Flagler County, which continues a slow recovery from the construction bust, sits with the highest rate, 9.3 percent, down from 9.4 percent in February. Meanwhile Hendry County was at 9.1 percent, down from a revised 9.3 percent.

Among large counties: Miami-Dade's rate grew from 6.7 percent in February to 7.5 percent; Broward held at 5.5 percent; Duval sat at 6.6 percent; Hillsborough remained at 6.3 percent; Orange ticked down from 6.0 percent to 5.9 percent; and Palm Beach and Pinellas both went from 6.4 percent to 6.3 percent.