Florida's unemployment rate ties record high
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04/17/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

More Floridians are losing their jobs, according to data released today. Rebecca Rust, the chief economist with the Agency for Workforce Innovation, says that seasonally adjusted March 2009 labor statistics for the state of Florida are even worse than the previous month.

“The unemployment rate for Florida is now 9.7 for March. … This represents 893,000 jobless Floridians.”

Rust says Florida’s unemployment rate is still higher than the country as a whole.

The last time Florida’s unemployment rate was this high was from January through March of 1976, according to Rust. A total of 424,300 jobs were lost in the last 12 months, representing 5.4 percent of all workers. For the first time in the current recession, professional and business services was the segment of the workforce that lost the most jobs. “It used to be construction,” Rust said. The Tampa Bay area was third in the state for number of jobs lost, 60,200, she said.

Agency for Workforce Innovation Director Cynthia Lorenzo says the unemployment picture is leading to an increase in the number of people calling for help with their unemployment claims.

That increased call volume, plus federal stimulus funding, led to Lorenzo’s announcement on Friday that the Agency for Workforce Innovation intends to award a contract for an unemployment compensation overflow call enter to open in Orlando by August.

“The federal stimulus dollars is bringing down 32 million of administrative funds … to operate our call center. … We do now have the funding available to proceed in this creative solution to better meeting our claimants’ needs.”

Lorenzo says the contract will be for $15.4 million over two years and would create nearly 200 jobs.

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