State, local jobless rates inch down; Fla. rate at 8%

Published: Friday, January 18, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 at 1:02 p.m.

Florida was one of the states hit particularly hard by the recession, but the unemployment rate inched closer to the national rate in December.

The state’s jobless rate dropped from 8.1 percent in November to 8.0 percent last month while the U.S. rate remained at 7.8 percent, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday. Florida’s unemployment rate was 9.9 percent in December 2011 compared to 8.5 percent for the U.S.

Gainesville’s unemployment rate had inched up to 6.4 percent in November, but returned to 6.2 percent in December, equaling October’s three-year low. It was the second lowest rate of 23 Florida metropolitan statistical areas, behind only Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin at 5.8 percent.

The drop was the result of a smaller labor force instead of job growth. In November, the local labor force had 128,728 employed and 8,799 unemployed people, with the numbers dropping in December to 128,186 employed and 8,464 unemployed.

Over the year, the number of employed locally was up by 1,250 compared to December 2011 when the jobless rate was 7.7 percent, based on household surveys.

A separate employer survey showed the most local job growth over the year in leisure and hospitality with an estimated 600 more jobs in food services, drinking places and hotels, followed by 100 new jobs each in manufacturing, local government and other services, which includes auto repair and maintenance, and membership associations and organizations.

Sectors losing the most jobs in Gainesville over the year were construction, state government and federal government, down 200 each.

Florida’s 8.0 percent unemployment rate represents 749,000 jobless out of a labor force of more than 9.3 million and was the lowest since November 2008, when it was 7.8 percent. Despite the rate drop from November, the employer survey showed a loss of 15,300 jobs statewide since November, but growth of 54,900 jobs over December 2011.

Florida’s rate has been higher than the national rate since April 2008. The rate peaked at 11.4 percent in January and February 2010. Since the employment level reached a low point in December 2009, Florida has added 238,000 jobs, but is still down by 686,700 jobs from a peak of about 8.1 million jobs in March 2007.

Job gains over the year in Florida were largely in food services and drinking places, food and beverage stores, employment services, ambulatory health services and transportation equipment manufacturing.

The most job losses over that time were in local government, heavy and civil engineering construction, automotive repair and maintenance, telecommunications, and insurance carriers and related activities.

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