DECEMBER UNEMPLOYMENT

Florida's jobless rate up slightly


Published: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 1:46 a.m.

Florida's unemployment rate rose slightly last month, but came in much lower than the previous year as the state managed to add nearly 62,000 jobs from December 2001.

Unemployment was 5.3 percent last month, up from November's revised rate of 5.2 percent but the third consecutive month of year-over-year decline. Last month's rate was seven-tenths of a percentage point lower than the 6 percent rate recorded in December 2001, according to a report issued Friday by the state Agency for Workforce Innovation.

The state posted its largest year-over-year gains in December in the services industry, which added 37,900 jobs from December 2001. Construction also grew by 16,700 jobs and government added 23,000 positions, but Florida's successes aren't being repeated on a national level, said Deborah Page, an assistant professor of economics at Santa Fe Community College.

"We've been waiting and waiting and waiting to see a turnaround in job creation nationally," Page said. "And we're still waiting. We had a couple of unexpectedly bad job reports in November and December where we originally thought we would gain jobs, but we actually ended up losing them."

Alachua County retained the state's lowest unemployment rate in December at 2.2 percent, down from the revised rate of 2.4 percent in November. The county has added 1,400 jobs since December 2001, when its jobless rate was 2.6 percent.

At KidWorks Preschool on NW 53rd Avenue in Gainesville, owner Cathy Kramer said she has been fortunate to have a stable staff of 18 employees. She advertised for two openings this week after a long period without vacancies, and one already has been filled internally and she's fielding inquiries about the second position.

"We've been doing really good with turnover," Kramer said. "People are sticking around."

Hendry County had the state's highest unemployment rate for December at 8.2 percent. Marion County's jobless rate was 4.5 percent for the month, down from a revised rate of 4.7 percent in November and a half-point lower than 5 percent in December 2001, according to state reports.

Among the country's 10 most populous states, only Florida and California recorded positive job growth from November 2001 to November 2002, according to the most recent data compiled by the state Agency for Workforce Innovation.

Unemployment claims in Florida were up 2.3 percent in December compared with that month in 2001, due in part to the loss of manufacturing jobs around the state.

Florida's jobless rate of 5.3 percent in December was also seven-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national average of 6 percent for the month.

Joe Coombs can be reached at (352) 338-3102 or coombsj@ gvillesun.com.

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