Local jobless rate hits six-month low

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Region’s 1.5% rate of job growth fails to match 2.4% percent statewide increase

Paced by job gains in retail trades, health care and construction, unemployment in the Sarasota-Manatee region fell to a six-month low of 2.8% in April.

The two-county jobless rate improved from the 3.2% posted both in March and one year earlier, according to a report from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The region added 4,500 net jobs over the year, a 1.5% growth rate that failed to match the 2.4% percent statewide increase.

Sarasota-Manatee reported the fastest annual job-growth rate among the state’s metro areas in the trade-transportation­-utilities sector by expanding 5.0%, or 2,900 jobs.

Construction added 1,700 jobs, a 6.8% yearly increase that topped the Florida average. The health care-education sector grew by 1,800 jobs, or 3.3%. Manufacturers put 500 more workers on payrolls, a 3.0% gain that also beat the statewide average.

The largest job losses, some impacted by seasonal factors, came in leisure-hospitality, 900; professional and business services, 900; and government, 500.

“It is fantastic to see that the unemployment rate for our region has dropped below 3%, considering it ‘full employment,'” said Jen Zak, communications director at CareerSource Suncoast. “However, we still have work to do. There are geographic areas within the Manatee-Sarasota region with much higher unemployment rates, and it actually jumps to 7% for 20- to 24-year-olds and even higher for 16- to 19-year-olds.

“That’s why we are pooling our resources with other human-services organizations to target these areas and age groups to get them trained, back to school and in a job. Health care has the highest demand in our region, and in just the past 10 months, CareerSource Suncoast has sent 109 clients back to school totaling over $263,000 in scholarships, with the majority being licensed practical nurses and other health care-related jobs,” she said.

Employers want to hire. A total of 11,608 online ads were posted in Sarasota-Manatee in April, the state said, although that was 2,881 fewer over the year. Among the most advertised occupations were registered nurses, retail salespeople, retail supervisors, customer service reps and nursing assistants.

Universal Health Services posted 469 open jobs last month. Hospital operator HCA Healthcare looked to fill 260 positions. Bealls Inc., the Bradenton-based retail chain, listed 218 jobs.

A total of 354,924 workers, including agricultural, took home paychecks in Sarasota-Manatee in April. Another 10,326 were out of work.

October 2018 was the last time the Sarasota-Manatee jobless rate was as low as 2.8%, DEO records show. The smallest unemployment rate in the past 28 years was 2.2% in June and December 1999.

In Charlotte County, the unemployment rate fell to 3.3% last month, from 3.7% in March and 3.8% one year earlier.

A total of 69,451 were working in Charlotte, also known as the Punta Gorda metro area, while 2,399 were jobless.

The county added 1,800 nonagricultural jobs over the year, a 3.7% growth rate.

The DEO only counts people actively seeking work as unemployed. The local numbers also are not adjusted for seasonal factors the way data is massaged for the overall state and U.S. counts.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.4% in April, down from 3.5% in March and from 3.7% a year earlier.

There were 357,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 10.33 million. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in April.

“The state gained 206,100 jobs over the year, an increase of 2.4%,” the DEO said. “Nationally, the number of jobs rose 1.8% over the year. With the exception of September 2017, Florida’s over-the-year job growth rate has exceeded the nation’s rate since April 2012.”

Monroe County reported the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.0%. Gulf County was highest at 4.7%.

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