Gainesville jobless rate dips as labor force shrinks

Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 10:52 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 at 5:50 p.m.

Gainesville's unemployment rate dipped to 7.9 percent in December from 8.0 percent in November, but the positive movement was the result of a shrinking labor force and not any growth in hiring.

The ranks of the unemployed shrank by 3 percent from month to month, from 11,266 to 10,915, in the Gainesville metropolitan statistical area, consisting of Alachua and Gilchrist counties, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. But the number of employed also shrank by 2,649, or 2 percent.

A smaller labor pool can be the result of people whose unemployment benefits have expired, those who have given up looking for work, or those who have returned to school or moved away.

Gainesville unemployment was 5.2 percent in December 2008, with 3,630 more people claiming unemployment and 5,748 fewer people in jobs over the year.

The 7.9 percent rate was the lowest of 23 Florida metro areas, with 10 showing lower rates from November to December. Local numbers are not seasonally adjusted.

The seasonally adjusted Florida unemployment rate rose to 11.8 percent in December from 11.5 percent in November and 7.6 percent in December 2008. The month saw 23,000 more people added to the ranks of unemployed for a total of 1,087,000, which is 378,000 more unemployed over the year. December's rate is the highest since May 1975.

The U.S. rate remained at 10.0 percent from November to December but also reflected a shrinking labor pool, as 73,000 fewer people claimed unemployment for a total of 15,267,000 but the number of employed also shrank by 589,000.

Estimates from a survey of local employers show that the retail trade sector lost the most jobs over the year at 700, followed by 600 in professional/business services and 500 in local government.

The only gains were reported in state government, up 300, and leisure/hospitality, up 100. Private education/health services, usually considered a growth field, was flat.

Statewide, the construction, trade/transportation/utilities, and professional/business services accounted for nearly two-thirds of all job losses in 2009. Health care has been the only growth sector.

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