The Big Bend’s unemployment rate is reaching historic lows, along with that of the state. There are plenty of “help wanted” signs but with few workers to be had, the local economy is still growing.
The Big Bend Region’s unemployment rate is 2.9 percent.
“We haven’t seen that since 2006," says the Leon County Office of Economic Vitalitys Cristina Paredes. Unemployment in Gadsden, Wakulla and Leon counties averaged 2.9 percent in October. The statewide rate was 3.4 percent. Gadsden was at three and a half percent, Wakulla was the lowest at two-and-a-half percent. According to Career Source, the area had only 5,558 unemployed residents.
And that small figure is telling, says Tallahassee Community Colleges’ Kim Moore.
“What that tells us is, especially when you’re looking at full employment, is that those who remain unemployed, there’s a skills mis-match.”
Moore heads TCC’s Workforce Development Center.
A review from Career Source Capital Region notes the top jobs advertisements in the area are registered nurses, computer system analysts, retail sales, heavy truck and tractor drivers and management analysts. TCC provides workforce training in many of those areas in an effort to fit the person to the job.
“There’s a skills mis-match in that the desired skills an employer is looking for and those who are seeking employment, they’re not connecting. It’s not a match," Moore says.
Yet, with so-few workers available for hire, businesses themselves are also experiencing potential labor shortages. Leon County’s Paredas notes both the public, government sector, and the private, independent business sectors continue growing.
“Our job growth is 1.9 percent. But when you isolate the private sector job growth is, its 3.8 percent and that’s holding steady and climbing over the past few months.”
The drivers? Finance, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality and construction—and that’s without the impact of rebuilding from hurricane Michael. TCC’s Kim Moore says the focus should not only be on the jobs here now, but the ones that will come in the future.
“You also have to think about the pipeline. Companies that will be expanding—those people will have to be trained and tooled as well.”
TCC has dozens of workforce training programs in place. The state also offers job seeking advice through CareerSource centers around the state.