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State & Area Unemployment Figures Drop Again

Florida’s unemployment rate took another dive, from 5.1% in January to 4.9% last month, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Similar drops were seen in the western Panhandle.

That 4.9 figure translates to 484,000 jobless Floridians, out of a 9.8 million member labor force. It also equals the national figure and it’s at an eight-year low.

DEO Director Cissy Proctor says the lone sector with job loss over the past year is information. But, Proctor says there was a bit of a comeback in that area from January to February.

“Over the month, there was a gain in those jobs – including broadcasting, telecommunications, and the publishing industry,” said Proctor.

Unemployment rates in the western Panhandle also dropped from January to February. Escambia County went from 5.5 to 4.9%; 4.8 to 4.3% in Santa Rosa, and 4.6 to 4.2% percent in Okaloosa County.

“The Pensacola area has gained 4,500 private-sector jobs over the year,” Proctor said. “That means private employers in the area are continuing to add jobs.”

Proctor says the two local sectors with the largest job gains are Tourism and Business and Professional Services in general, and jobs requiring a college education in particular.

“Everything from an accounting job to a finance job, to anything you can think of that would require that professional degree,” said Proctor. “A lot of those jobs, not only do they require a higher education level, but typically we see higher wages associated with those jobs.”

If history is any yardstick, tourism in the Pensacola area – along with the state as a whole – will continue to be in the top four sectors.

“The Pensacola area, for February, [tourism] is the number one area where you’re seeing that growth,” Proctor said. “Ya’ll have a lot going on over there this spring break, as well through the summer.”

Jobless rates in the two local metro areas are also down from February. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent dropped from 5.2% to 4.7%, while Crestview-Destin-Fort Walton Beach went from 4.7-4.3%.

Proctor gives part of the credit to the 24 regional workforce boards, including Career Source EscaRosa. Those offices placed nearly 35,000 people into jobs last month.

Next door, Alabama's unemployment rate is unchanged from January at 6.2%