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Pinellas County jobless rate up 1.3 percent
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TALLAHASSEE - Unemployment in Pinellas County soared to 9.5 percent in January, according to the latest figures released by the state.

Figures released by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation on March 6 show the state’s adjusted unemployment rate for January 2009 at 8.6 percent, meaning out of a labor force of 9,256,000, 800,000 are unemployed.

In Pinellas County, 43,323 out of a labor force of 457,392 were reported as unemployed in January.

Pinellas County’s unemployment rate jumped more than a percentage point from 8.2 percent in December and more than 4 points from January 2008, when unemployment was reported at 5.1 percent.

Statewide, January’s unemployment is 1 percentage point higher than December’s at 7.6 percent and 3.6 points higher than January 2008, officials said. It also is higher than the national average of 7.6 percent for the same time period.

National unemployment figures for February, released on March 6, show a climb to 8.1 percent, reportedly the highest since 1983.

Pinellas County was ranked No. 28 in the state, with Flagler County at No. 1 with an unemployment rate of 14.2 percent. Liberty County had the lowest rate at 5.5 percent.

Preliminary figures for the metropolitan statistical area of Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ranked the area at No. 11 with an average unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.

The Palm Coast MSA was ranked at No. 1 with an average unemployment rate of 14.2 percent. Gainesville MSA was the lowest, ranked at No. 23 with an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent.

The report said all metro areas in the state lost jobs in the area of nonagricultural employment. The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater came in second for the largest decline, with a loss of 42,200 jobs.

Florida’s January 2009 unemployment rate is the highest since September 1992, when the rate was 8.9 percent, the report said. Prior to 1992, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Florida using the current methodology peaked at 9.7 percent in January, February, and March of 1976.

The January 2009 rate of job loss continues the trend of over-the-year declines that began in August 2007 primarily due to declines in construction jobs, the report said.

So far this year, 100,700 construction jobs have been lost; 86,400 in the fields of trade, transportation and utilities; 84,500 in professional and business services; 37,600 in leisure and hospitality; 30,800 in manufacturing; 19,000 in financial activities; 13,100 in other services; and 10,900 in the information field.

“These industry job losses are partially due to weakness in specialty trade contractors; motor vehicle and parts dealers; employment services; food services and drinking places; fabricated metal product manufacturing; credit intermediation; repair and maintenance; and publishing,” the report said.

The only areas that showed a gain in employment were education and health services up 23,500 jobs and total government up 4,100 jobs.

“Much of the increase in education and health services is due to growth in nursing and residential care facilities,” the report said. “Much of the increase in total government is due to shifting seasonal patterns in state universities employment.”

Jobs are available

Employ Florida Marketplace currently lists nearly 130,000 job opportunities in Florida, the report said.

Employ Florida is an online labor exchange tool that provides employers, job seekers, students, training providers and workforce professionals with comprehensive and convenient workforce services at no cost.

Employers can post job openings and job seekers can post resumes at www.e­mploy­flori­­m.

Help may be coming

Gov. Charlie Crist included a number of measures in his proposed budget for 2009-10 to boost employment and help the unemployed, including a $25 a week increase in unemployment benefits beginning in March.

Crist also is looking at ways to best utilize federal stimulus dollars, the report said.

According to information released by the White House, the economic stimulus funding will create or retain 206,000 jobs in Florida over three years.

“Governor Crist has emphasized job creation and stimulating Florida’s economy by developing budget priorities that focus on these principles and translate federal stimulus dollars into action,” said Agency Interim Director Cynthia R. Lorenzo. “We are working diligently to ensure federal stimulus funds are distributed quickly to have significant impact on increasing benefits and enhancing our services to Floridians. We are also working diligently to ensure our state and business partners are posting job openings on the Employ Florida Marketplace Web site.”

Among recommendations made by Crist are:

- Using nearly $77.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds in Fiscal Year 2009-2010 to match job seekers with Florida businesses and train workers for opportunities created by the federal stimulus package. This recommendation includes nearly $37 million to assist dislocated workers and $21 million for youth work programs.

- The immediate infusion of nearly $81 million in federal stimulus funds for the current fiscal year, 2008-2009, to match job seekers with Florida businesses and train workers for opportunities created by the federal stimulus package.

For more information, visit www.f­lorid­ajobs­.com.
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