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DEO: Florida's Jobless Figures Down From January To February

FL Department of Economic Opportunity

Florida’s unemployment rate remains at five percent even -- unchanged from January to February. But the numbers appear to be at loggerheads when it comes to actual jobs.

The jobless figure remains constant, despite the loss of five thousand jobs last month – which may be an indication that Florida’s economic recovery is losing some steam. At the Department of Economic Opportunity, Director Cissy Proctor says they’re looking at the big picture.

“What we see is that private-sector businesses across the state in the first two months of 2017 have created almost 54,000 private-sector jobs,” said Proctor. “And our labor force is continuing to grow at a rate of four times that of the nation.”

In the western Panhandle, jobless rates fell across the board from January to last month. Escambia County went from five and a half percent to 4.8%; Santa Rosa dropped from 5.1% to 4.4% and Okaloosa County fell from 4.7% to four percent even.

“The top sectors when we’re looking over the year in growth, we see that it’s leisure and hospitality which is the tourism industry,” Proctor said. “as well as trade, transportation and utilities which is a lot of logistics jobs.”

The construction sector remains strong year over year. However, many of the new jobs being created are in lower-paying industries, such as retail trade, tourism and health care.

About 4,500 job openings are scattered throughout Florida. About a third of them, says Proctor, are in the STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Such jobs continue to be a priority for the Scott Administration.

“We want to make sure that’s along [the Panhandle], where there’s a lot of military,” said Proctor. “You want to make sure that you’ve got that strong job growth in those jobs that have that have that high-skill requirement and pay those high wages.”

Local metro areas also saw a drop in their jobless rates. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent’s 5.4% mark in January went to 4.7% in February. Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin – 4.8% to 4.1.

DEO’s Cissy Proctor says the western Panhandle will join the rest of Florida in benefitting from the tourism industry this spring and summer. 

“We know that the tourists are coming to the state; we know that there are jobs available in that industry, and we know that summer’s a great time for people to come to [Pensacola],” said Proctor.

Florida’s five percent unemployment mark is higher than the nation’s 4.7%, but lower than next-door neighbor Alabama’s 6.2 figure. Monroe County had the state's lowest unemployment rate at 3.1%; Hendry County was tops at 7.2.