Flagler County’s Unemployment Rate Tumbles to 8.3% in Sharpest Single-Month Improvement of Recovery
FlaglerLive | May 16, 2014
Flagler County’s unemployment rate fell a full percentage point in April, to 8.3 percent, the sharpest single-month improvement of the last five years’ recovery, as the number of unemployed people in the county dropped by 375 and the number of employed people climbed by 111. A drop of 264 in the labor force, however, also helped reduce the unemployment figure.
April’s drop solidified a year-long trend of improving prospects for Flagler and vindicated predictions by many local government and economic development officials that the county was poised for solid growth. Still, the drop was not enough to bump Flagler out of the top of the chart for highest unemployment in the state: Flagler, a decimal point behind Hendry County, remains in second place, just one decimal point higher than Hamilton County.
“We’re right on the cusp of a huge amount of employment here that’s going top pay really nice wages,” Barbara Revels, a county commissioner who chairs the county’s Economic Opportunity Advisory Council, said at the council’s last meeting. “We’re almost there, it’s just that the timing issue is not showing up yet.”
Over the course of the past 12 months, the number of people who live in Flagler and have jobs has increased by 950 (understanding that a significant portion of those jobs are in Volusia, St. Johns and other counties), while the labor force has increased by 430, and the number of unemployed people has decreased by 520. “Our unemployment has not gone up like it gets put in the press, it’s just that people arriving here looking for work have gone up,” Revels said.
Florida’s unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent in April, where it had been stuck from December through February. The state created 34,000 jobs in April, one of the better month-over-month figures of the recovery. There were 599,000 Floridians out of work, with a labor force of 9.6 million. Florida’s labor force participation rate was 60.7 percent in April 2014, up 0.2 percentage point from the March 2014 participation rate of 60.5 percent. That sugegsts that more people are willing to either return to the work force or to move to the state and look for work.
“The state’s private sector has created more than 600,000 jobs for Florida families since December 2010, and we are another step toward making sure every Floridian who wants a job can get one,” Governor Rick Scott said today.
In Flagler for now, the majority of employment is driven by small businesses averaging three employees each, says Robin King, president and CEO of Career Source Flagler-Volusia. King presented her quarterly report to the Economic Opportunity Council earlier this month. The report provided a somewhat clearer picture of the labor landscape in the county than today’s state report provides. From January through March, some 1,288 people were actively looking for work, with 375 Flagler County residents who though counted as employed, were in fact underemployed, which means they were not working the number of hours they wanted or were unhappy with where they were. In all, 73 businesses posted 222 job in the first three months of the year. Manufacturing, construction, health, office and administration and food preparation were the industries looking for workers (in that order), with the average wage around $11 an hour. Over the last 12 months, there was an increase of 400 jobs in the county.
“We have people who are looking for employment that have degrees,” King said. “These are not just first-time job entrants, they’re not basic entry-level. I have over a hundred that have a bachelor’s master’s or doctorate, but more than half of these 1,288 that were looking for employment have some college or those degrees certifications, votech credentials kind of things. So we have talented people here.” About 24 percent of the labor force in Flagler works in Volusia County. Another segment works in St. Johns.
Beau Falgout, a senior planner who focuses on economic development for Palm Coast, told the council that the city is “focusing on a couple of things–maintaining our neighborhoods, helping our existing businesses grow, and attracting investment.” The city’s Business Assistance Center, he said, doesn’t serve businesses just in palm Coast, but any business anywhere in the county. The city estimates that the BAC has had an economic impact of $21 million in the last three years. That estimate is nowhere near mathematically precise: the state surveys businesses every year, asking about the effects of such things as the business center on its clients (the local BAC is replicated across the state).