FL unemployment highest in 33 years

03/27/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Florida’s unemployment rate soared to 9.4% last month, the highest rate in nearly 33 years. In the Tampa Bay area, it’s now at 10.2%.

The state unemployment is dramatically higher than a year ago, when it was at 5.2%.

Rebecca Rust is the Chief Economist for the Agency for Workforce Innovation For Florida. She says there are almost 400,000 fewer jobs in Florida than a year ago.

Rust says the unemployment numbers don't include what the Government classifies as 'Discouraged Workers'. That is, those who are out of a job and want one, but are not actively seeking work. She says if those workers were included, it would make the numbers released today even worse.

The only sectors that saw job growth are private education and health care. In the Tampa Bay area, the worst county is Hernando, with over 12% unemployment. Pasco county is over 10%, Pinellas right at 10%, and Hillsborough is at 9.7%.

Monies awarded to Florida through the economic stimulus package are just now beginning to trickle down into the state. Rust says it was far too early to detect any impact yet. She says there are great expectations, though, beginning with the $25 extra a week in benefits that will now go to the unemployed.

An earlier report from the Agency For Workforce Innovation said that unemployment would probably peak at 10.2% in Florida early next year. Rust says that may have been too optimistic.

Some Republican members of the state Legislature said earlier this week that they are hesitant to accept another potential $1.1 billion in federal aid for unemployment benefits. They believe that taking the money now would mean a hardship later for Florida companies that pay into the state's unemployment insurance fund.

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