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Good news for those in Levy County seeking a job, the unemployment rate for August was 7.9 percent, a drop of 0.8 percent from July's rate of 8.7 percent.
Surrounding counties served by Workforce Connection, the region's career service, also saw dips in unemployment. The regional rate was 7.9 percent in August, down 0.4 percent from July, and down 2.2 percentage points compared to a year ago. It was 7.9 percent for Marion County, a decrease of 0.4 percent and 8 percent for Citrus County, also down 0.4 percentage points.
The state's rate was 7 percent while the national rate was 7.3 percent.
Workforce Connection CEO Rusty Skinner said that the August report shows that the three-county region experienced a “summer neutral position,” which is not unexpected coming out of the traditional summer slump.
Levy County's labor force shrank by 89 to 16,362, those with jobs rose by 411 to 15,068 and the number of unemployed dropped by 130 to 1,294 which is down 325 over the year when the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent.
“It’s August, there are all sorts of issues bounding around,” Skinner said. “We have had some growth, but we also see an extension of the summer doldrums.”
Skinner said that in Citrus and Levy counties, drops in unemployment rates were driven by actions in the labor force, including college students returning to school, high school and college graduates moving out of the area, people simply not looking for work because they are disengaged – or vacationing – or others moving out of the area for “a variety of reasons.”
In contrast, Skinner said that employment gains contributed to the unemployment rate drop in Marion County. He noted that Burlington Coat Factory, Custom Window Systems, Caregiver Services and other employers held hiring events in August.
“Normally, we come back in September,” Skinner said. “What we see for August is the employment numbers were not fluctuating enough to indicate we’re not moving forward, but also they don’t show we’ve taken the next step. How we step out of this month will be setting the tempo.”
Regional unemployment rates tracked back to 1991 show that in all but a few instances – notably the Great Recession of 2007-2009 – unemployment rates return to or drop below the pre-summer slump levels by September or October. Skinner pointed out that September through November has historically proved to be the region’s strongest months for job placements.
Workforce Connection placed 1,189 job seekers, or 41 percent more than in August 2012.