Area jobless numbers up
While the jobless rate in Florida remained unchanged in June, unemployment across Southwest Florida rose from the previous month, according to the latest jobs report from the state Department of Economic Opportunity.
According to the DEO, Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota counties all posted higher unemployment numbers in June, likely the result of a slowdown in seasonal work in industries such as agriculture and tourism during the summer months.
Charlotte County’s unemployment rate rose from 8.7 percent in May to 9.0 percent in June. Sarasota reported unemployment at 8.7 percent, up from 8.4 percent in May. DeSoto County had the biggest area increase in unemployment, coming in at 9.0 percent in June, compared with 7.8 percent the previous month.
Meanwhile, Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained flat at 8.6 percent, representing some 795,000 jobless people out of a civilian labor force of roughly 9.3 million.
State and federal rates are reported differently than regional figures, which are not seasonally adjusted to account for fluctuations in areas such as tourism and agriculture. Nationally, the unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in June.
Still, state officials were quick to note that Florida added 9,000 new jobs last month.
“In the month of June, 9,000 more Floridians got new jobs and were able to receive a paycheck to help provide for their families,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a prepared statement.
But local job experts have mixed feelings about the latest numbers, saying that while unemployment hasn’t changed much, the need still remains high for people looking to find permanent, quality work.
Madison Mitchell, the community relations coordinator for Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida — which provides services in Charlotte, Hendry, Collier, Lee and Glades counties — said the need for employment services is still very high.
The agency opened its first Goodwill Job-Link center in 2009, she said, and since then seven more have opened, including one in Englewood that just celebrated its ribbon-cutting last week.
“Our numbers have definitely increased,” Mitchell said, noting that of the 8,881 people served through Goodwill’s Job-Link centers last year, 1,562 of them were in Charlotte County.
But that’s not what Lynn Gahagan, manager at Express Employment in Port Charlotte, is seeing.
Gahagan has been with the employment firm for 16 years, and she said she spends about 50 percent of her time trying to recruit workers for job openings.
“I had a landscaping position for a government agency and it took weeks to fill that job,” Gahagan said.
And that might be part of the difficulty, since about half of the jobs she’s trying to fill are for “lower-end-paying jobs” like landscaping, warehouse work, packing and stocking. The other half, she said, are office and administrative assistant-type jobs.
Still, a job is a job, Gahagan said.
“People say there are no jobs. That’s baloney,” Gahagan said. “Give them my card. I’ll find them a job.”