State job market outpaces nation's


Published: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2004 at 9:03 p.m.
December unemployment statistics indicate Florida is continuing to outperform the national job market in both job growth and rate of unemployment.
The state's preliminary unemployment rate of 4.7 percent dropped from November's revised rate of 4.9, and is down 0.6 percent from the December 2002 rate of 5.3, according to a report issued Friday by the state Agency for Workforce Innovation. The national unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in December.
"We've led the nation now for 21 consecutive months of job growth, and 22 months with a rate below the nation," said Warren May, spokesman for the Agency for Workforce Innovation. "At a time when other states are still reporting job losses and negative growth, we're very pleased to be able to report job gains."
Alachua County came in with the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 2.2 percent, down from a revised 2.5 percent in November, and one-tenth of a percent drop from December 2002's 2.3 rate. Monroe County had the lowest rate at 2.1 percent, and Taylor had the highest rate at 7.4.
Marion County's unemployment rated dropped a half percent in December - 4.0 - from the previous month of 4.5 percent, and was 0.6 percent lower than a year ago.
Statewide, professional and business services led the sectors of employment growth, adding 35,700 jobs, followed by government jobs totaling 27,700, mostly on the local level, May said. Other sectors showing job growth in December were: construction, 21,600; leisure and hospitality, 18,800; and education and health services, 14,600.
In the professional and business services sector, employment services added the most jobs.
"Companies are starting to pick up the hiring pace, but I also think they are being a little bit cautious," said Trent Cross Sr. of the Gainesville staffing agency Spherion. "It's my feeling that they are turning to staffing services to help them add staff in such a way that if things don't hold up for them, they can bail out pretty quickly."
However, Alachua County is unique in that it does have large employers like the governments, health care providers, and educational institutions that provide long-term employment, Cross said.
"That helps us keep unemployment as low as we can, but the dark side of this is that we don't have enough good people available with the requisite skills to fill positions that are out there," he said.
The state lost 9,100 manufacturing jobs, 4,900 information category jobs and 3,000 from the trade, transportation and utilities categories.
"Our big story in manufacturing is that yes, we are having losses, but even those losses have been declining," May said. "We're going to see some real push here by Gov. Bush and Enterprise Florida to reverse that trend."
May said that economists have indicated to his agency that job growth is likely to accelerate through this year.
Doris Chandler can be reached at (352) 374-5094, or chandld@gvillesun.com.

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