January jobless numbers up, still lower than in past

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By The Staff

The number of unemployed people in Levy County rose during January by three-tenths of a percent from December, bringing the county's unemployment rate to 9 percent, according to Workforce Connection, the region's reemployment agency. 

Despite the rise, it's still good news when compared to a year ago when the unemployment rate was 10.3 percent,  January 2011 when it was 11.9 and January 2010 when it was 13.0 — one of the worst months on record for the county. And the rate is still lower than shortly after the recession hit and unemployment was 10.1 in January 2009. 

In Levy County, the labor force fell by 194 since December 2012 to 16,211, employment fell by 227 to 14,752 and the number of unemployed rose by 33 to 1,459. Over the year, the number of unemployed dropped by 252 from 1,711. In January 2011, the jobless rate was 11.9 percent with 2,012 people unemployed.

It was much the same story in Citrus and Marion counties which are part of Workforce Connection’s three-county region. The January regional unemployment rate was 9.1 percent, up 0.2 percent from December’s rate. But it was 1.9 percentage points lower than the same time last year and down nearly 4 percent since January 2011. Marion County posted an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, up 0.2 percent over the month and Citrus County rose 0.4 percentage points to 9.3 percent.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in January fell to 7.8 percent, the lowest since November 2008 when it was also 7.8 percent. The national rate was 7.9 percent in January.

Rusty Skinner, Workforce Connection’s CEO, said the slight uptick in unemployment is not alarming, and was experienced statewide. Fifty-one of Florida’s 67 counties posted an increase in jobless rates, 11 remained unchanged and only five dropped.

“Obviously they have done a benchmarking exercise, and that may account for some of this; also, these numbers typically reflect the seasonal declines as holiday hiring ends,” Skinner said. “We’ll know more when the February numbers come out next week.”

Skinner said that the month-to-month variations do not accurately reflect the positive gains.

“We are down almost 2 percent from where we were last year and we have had a number of recent announcements showing major economic development efforts and that’s very positive,” he said.

Rebecca Rust, the state Department of Economic Opportunity's chief economist, said what contributed to the higher unemployment rate for the local region a year ago was the “long-term weakness in construction and losses in information, government and retail trade.” 

Nine major industries gained jobs over the year, led by trade, transportation and utilities and education and health services; professional and business services; manufacturing, financial activities, and leisure and hospitality; and mining, logging and construction, other services and government.

Information remained unchanged over the year.

Professional and business services; education and health services; financial activities; other services; and manufacturing grew faster in the metro area than the state over the year.