Unemployment rate hit high in Dec.


Published: Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 10:52 p.m.

Florida's unemployment rate hit a 16-year high in December as the recession and housing downturn continued to take a toll on jobs.

The unemployment rate hit 8.1 percent, up from 7.4 percent in November and 4.5 percent in December 2007, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.

It was the highest rate since 8.9 percent in September 1992.

The Gainesville Metropolitan Statistical Area of Alachua and Gilchrist counties had the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.3 percent, but it was still up from 5 percent in November and 3.2 percent a year ago.

The jobless rate was particularly pronounced in Ocala/Marion County, which crossed the 10 percent threshold to 10.1 percent, up from 9.7 percent a month prior and 5.4 percent a year ago.

Only the Palm Coast area had a higher rate, at 11.7 percent.

The state lost more than 255,000 jobs, or 3.2 percent over the year, worse than the 1.9 percent decline nationwide.

Construction accounted for 30 percent of the jobs lost in the state.

Only the education and health services sector gained jobs, largely from growth in ambulatory - or outpatient - health services.

State legislators recently approved Gov. Charlie Crist's economic stimulus plan to provide $10 million in loans and services for business of 10 to 50 employees.

The Gainesville area lost 1,800 jobs in the year, including 700 in construction and 600 in retail trade.

Leisure and hospitality gained 700 jobs, and education/health services gained 200.

The job losses were deceptively dramatic from November to December, with 2,300 state government jobs lost and 2,400 total, because of seasonal losses at the University of Florida.

Angela Pate, executive director of FloridaWorks, said the numbers reflect grad student jobs that end between semesters, and that the numbers would go up again in January.

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