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Florida Jobless Rate Drops Slightly

Florida’s unemployment rate edged down in September by the smallest of margins.  Despite the modest drop, state officials say it’s a sign that Governor Scott’s drive to create private sector jobs is really working.

In a way, Florida officials are taking the same tack the Obama administration has in explaining the slow pace of recovery.  Things were so bad before, it’s taking a lot of time to make things better.  That was the direction Department of Economic Opportunity Economist Rebecca Rust was taking during a media conference call just hours after the September unemployment numbers came out.

“And when you look at the peak unemployment rate during the recession, it was 11.4 [percent], so we’ve declined all the way to 8.7 from that time period.  Also this month, all of the county unemployment rates declined over the year," Rust told reporters.

That’s encouraging because, in previous months, there were at least a few Florida counties seeing higher numbers, even as the state’s overall jobless rate declined.   All-in-all, the Department of Economic Opportunity says things are going in the right direction.

“Florida experienced positive annual job growth now for the 26th consecutive month, with Florida’s job growth month-to-month has been positive now for twelve of the last fifteen months," said DEO's Executive Director Hunting Deutsch.

Admittedly, Florida’s job growth in September wasn’t exactly a record-breaker.  There are indeed new private sector jobs coming on line every month.  But Deutsch admits that’s offset partly by the loss of jobs in the public sector.

“There’s been a reduction of 24,500 jobs, so it’s clearly the intention of the administration to find efficiencies within government and reduce burden.  But at the end of the day, you’re right that we did have job loss again for the month in the government sector of 2,700.”

That means a net-job gain for the month of September of only 800 jobs.  But it’s not only the growth, however small, in the number of people getting jobs now.  Deutsch says there’s an upward trend in the number of jobs yet to be filled, and the number of people who might fill them.

“Job postings increased sharply in September compared to the previous September by 15 percent.  So now the Employ Florida Marketplace.com has more than 268,000 open jobs currently and net in-migration in the state with more than 130,000 people having moved to Florida in the past twelve months is up as well.”

And in his weekly radio address, Governor Scott said there’s significant growth in the number of better-paying jobs.

“Florida’s on-line job postings in science, technology, engineering and math, rose over the year.  In September, Florida had 64,000 job postings in these fields, up nine-percent from last year.”

The latest jobless numbers really come as no surprise to Bill Herrle.  He heads up the Florida arm of the National Federation of Independent Business.  He says his membership, mostly small businesses, stands poised to do even more hiring.

“We do have things pointing in the right direction, but we don’t want  this to become a lost decade for Florida.  With this trend curve, we can see some stronger economic activity looking forward into 2013.  But there’s two big questions remaining; what direction is this country taking and where are the customers?” Herrle said.

And regardless of the outcome of the November election, which Herrle says will determine the national direction, his association has a wish list for Florida lawmakers during the 2013 legislative session.

“We always bring their attention to trying to reduce some of the fixed costs of doing business.  So we’ll be bringing forward an agenda that includes workers’ compensation reform, unemployment compensation tax reform, perhaps we’ll be taking a look at implementing the reduction of the intangible personal property tax.”

Passage of any of these, Herrle says, could help edge down Florida’s future jobless rate more than the one-tenth-of-one-percent seen in September.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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