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Flagler’s Unemployment Falls to 13.9%, But Labor Force Is Down 3.6% Over the Past Year

| January 20, 2012

Click on the graph for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: 12:54 p.m.

Numbers just released by Florida’s labor department show the state’s unemployment rate falling to 9.9 percent, the lowest level since April 2008, while Flagler’s rate fell to 13.9 percent. Except for last May, when Flagler’s rate briefly dipped to 13.8 percent, only to climb back up, December’s local rate was the lowest in exactly three years: the unemployment rate was 13.8 percent in December 2008.

Ironically, Flagler again took over the state’s top spot for its worst unemployment rate, exceeding that of Hendry County, which fell to 13.5 percent. Flagler and Hendry have been toggling over the top (or bottom) spot for the past three years.

The number of unemployed people in Flagler fell from 4,616 to 4,463, a drop of 153. But again in Flagler, the drop in unemployment was not led by local job creation, but by a sharp drop in the labor force. There were 28,073 people with jobs in Flagler in November. In December, the number fell by 483, to 27,590, a 1.7 percent drop, continuing a trend over the last several months.

Flagler County’s overall labor force has shrunk in the past year by 1,201 people, or 3.6 percent. The number suggests a drop in the local population, especially when set alongside the school district’s overall population (charter and traditional schools), which, as of this week, had dropped to 12,846. That’s less than the 12,900 students the district had at the end of the last school year, or the 13,193 it had counted on the first day of school this year. Fewer children in school usually means fewer working families.

Barbara Revels (© FlaglerLive)

“Our total rate dropping is good news but when you add that footnote to it it’s very disturbing,” says Barbara Revels, the county commissioner who chairs the county’s newly created jobs council.

“My first reaction with absolutely no statistical knowledge to back it up is that a number of people have given up in finding work and moved to other locals either where there’s work or there’s family or some other way to support themselves,” Revels said. “In a way I hope it’s not true that people had to move because there are no other alternatives but that is the reality of the unemployment rate that we have.”

Revels noted that the overall unemployment figures may also not reflect an older segment of the population–retirees whose savings may have been wiped out or reduced by market drops, and who have found themselves competing for jobs again, though not necessarily applying for unemployment.

“People are leaving, mate,” says Doug Baxter, president of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates. “If they can’t find a job, they’re leaving. There’s not a whole lot we can do about that at this point.” But, Baxter said, the figures add up to a double-edged sword: the economy is improving. Local businesses are feeling better. Baxter cites one example, a local air conditioning company that’s been at its busiest in three years. “The word has to get out regionally that things are getting better here,” he said. “The doom and gloom is finally lifting.”

Lou Paris, the marketing and communications manager at the Center for Business Excellence, said Flagler was obviously the county that got hit the hardest during the construction and real estate slump, with unemployment skyrocketing and creating the real sense that opportunities locally had dried up. “My understanding is that when it tanked, up until now, anyone who could leave to find other opportunities did so,” Paris said. “There’s a group of people in our workforce that have been discourages to continue looking for employment, they’ve exhausted their unemployment claims, so they’re not counted as part of the unemployment figures.”

It doesn’t help to live in a county where the recurring mantra is synonymous with the state’s highest unemployment rate. Living here without work, “you’d prob have an urge to go to a county where the outlook is a little better,” Paris said. But that’s not the whole story: the Center for Business Excellence has been retraining people in live with an overall strategy to diversify the workforce, and over the last two to three years people involved in, say, construction have redirected their careers to business management, found work in health industries (particularly CNAs, or certified nursing assistants). It’s a slow but steady recalibration of the workforce. As unemployment figures fall, the bad publicity the numbers generate will presumably dissipate, and the job climate will improve.

Meanwhile, the number of jobless Floridians is down to 913,000, with some 113,900 jobs created in the last 12 months, the healthiest year-over-year job growth since January 2007. The state has posted net job increases for the past 15 consecutive months.

Statewide in November, only a few sectors saw job losses: Administrative and waste services lost 12,500 jobs, education and health services lost 2,300, retail trade lost 5,800, and professional and business services lost 5,200. But all other sectors were either flat or gained jobs, including government, which had been a perennial job loser in the past year. State and local governments combined for a gain of 2,100 jobs. Transportation and warehousing added 3,800 jobs, professional and technical services added 6,200, leisure and hospitality, or tourism industries, added 3,300.

The full unemployment report is below.

Download the Florida December 2011 Unemployment Report

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27 Responses for “Flagler’s Unemployment Falls to 13.9%, But Labor Force Is Down 3.6% Over the Past Year”

  1. Fred Peterson via Facebook says:

    13.9 unemployment in this county and they want parents to Buy school uniforms, With what money? from What Job?

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m sure Mr. Fischer can join us here to explain to Fred Peterson why. I mean besides just pounding his fist on the dais essentially saying “because I said so!”.

  2. The Truth says:

    Whenever you talk about unemployment, it’s never a good thing. You’re talking about it for a reason, and that’s because people aren’t working. However, this is actually good news and I’m glad to hear it.

    Our country and economy was in bad shape. Our last president led us down a path that helped in short term (housing market) and hurt us in long term. Obama has had 4 years and while I think we could be in better shape then we are, we are still improving. I have confidence that this administration can get us on the right track. Our economy as a whole is growing. Many people lost a lot of money because their investments/retirement was in the stock market. The market has long since recovered and is on track to continue to build. We still have a long way to go, but we are moving in the right direction and that is what matters. If you listen to certain news organizations, you’ll hear a lot of doom and gloom. Many of the media in this country is slanted one way or the other (MSNBC and Fox News). If we have a Republican in office, you’ll hear negativity from one and if we have a Democratic in office you’ll hear it from another. It’s just a never ending cycle. Quite frankly, I’m tired of the doom and gloom. I want to hear positive news. When all you hear is negativity every day, you tend to start believing some of it.

    Flagler County has the highest unemployment because, let’s face it, there aren’t many jobs here. Even before this economic downturn, we were still up there in unemployment. This is not a large community and we grew way to fast back in the mid 2000s and we could not keep up with all the people coming in. I still enjoy living in this county, but we have to temper our expectations. We do not have the benefit of a large, booming metropolis right next door (as many in New York and New Jersey have with New York City). Many who are employed in this area are employed by one of the larger employers we have which include Palm Coast Data, Flagler County Schools and the City of Palm Coast. If you’re not employed by one of those, you are most likely working in real estate, retail or at a bank. This community is built on small businesses and always has. I would encourage everyone to support your local small businesses. There are many local sites that allow for customers to review these businesses. Do yourself a favor and do business with these fine businesses rather than supporting the larger retail establishments. You’d be very surprised at how much more pleasant it is to do business with a person rather than corporation.

  3. Of course the numbers will go down as people’s unemployment runs out. When the numbers of people on either unemployment or food stamps go down we will be headed in the right direction.

  4. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    We’ll be “headed in the right direction” when there are living wage JOBS in Flagler County for those who need them.

  5. Anonymous says:

    But unfortunately is reported that now we are the highest unemployment county in all of Florida.

  6. Prescient33 says:

    I find it ironic that the headline of the article seeks to diminish the positive news of a drop in unemployment in Flagler by its reference to the concomitant drop in the labor force. Why wasn’t the same tactic employed when the national unemployment dropped below 9% for the first time in months? At the time this happened, statisticians and economists pointed out in below the fold commentary the national rate drop actually largely was attributable to a sharp decrease in the nation’s labor force through the removing from its rolls those who have ceased looking for work because they are discouraged (a statistician’s ploy since they are still unemployed, just no longer counted).
    Some critics might attribute it to your pro Obama regime bias.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Prescient, the point of the article is not to transcribe state PR but to analyze the fine print, detect trends, and inform the discussion in as frank a way as possible on where the weaknesses are and how to move next. It’s be irresponsible to stick to rose-colored reporting when there’s clearly more in play, and certainly more at stake, if we care about the county’s future direction. There’s plenty of booster-only reporting elsewhere. In similar stories on the national unemployment rate, the point you’re making was, in fact, made repeatedly–that a sleight of hand was influencing the brighter numbers, but last month there clearly was a net job creation, nationally anyway, that overwhelmed that other factor (people dropping out of the workforce). That’s not the case in Flagler yet.

  7. tjm says:

    uniforms are CHEAPER than designer clothes parents have to keep up with!! AND HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE FALLEN OFF THE UNEMPLOYMENT ROLLS AND NOT COUNTED. I AM ONE OF THEM!!!

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Highest In Florida now.

  9. an excellent indicator of how well the chamber of commerce, tax-payer funded cheer squads are doing.
    give them more money ~ build a department ~ hire more

    oh wait ~ we did that.

    • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

      We keep smacking ourselves in the face with the same solutions. If we could get more than a couple thousand interested in this community and voting, we might see a difference. But no, we leave it status quo.

      How long has the head of the chamber been here? Mayor will be serving a 15 yr. term, same with the sheriff if he wins.

      You want something different but leave the same people in charge.

  10. The Truth says:

    The Republican’s who post here and who watch the garbage on Fox News will never see the bright side to anything. They are the same ones who refuse to admit who’s ultimately responsible for the mess our country was put in.

    • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

      I think most of us are smart enough to figure that out on our own by now. The politicing back and forth is accomplishing nothing. big fat zero.

  11. Jojo says:

    Since the Felon became Governor and changed the amount of weeks one can remain on unemployment, which is now 26 weeks, there are also more people in Florida dropping off the radar who, are no longer counted as unemployed.

    You can play with numbers all day and have positive results. I once read an interesting article of how the nation reveals those weekly unemployment figures nationwide every Friday (by the way, Friday? The weekend is here and by Monday it’s all forgot about). It’s far from accurate and far from being an exact science.

    I like to be positive too but watch when retail starts to layoff minimum paying jobs within the next few months and we’re paying $110,000 salaries here in Flagler???

  12. Gia says:

    No engineering or industries are going to come around here so do not expect glory in this area. If you want to work go at Walmart or McDo.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    @the truth; Thank you so much for your positive comments and your suggestion to our local residents to support “our local businesses”.I own one of them and we had to tighten our belt unfortunately because it meant cutting labor hours and content ourselves with less. But we are still afloat and in no danger of sinking any time soon. To the contrary maybe with a bit of positive turn around currently. We, the small business owners of America do not expect greedy profits for shareholders, or tax payers bailouts or hand outs to satisfy investors. We labor our success along our employees. If we could get some investors, national or foreign to get our former engineers, technical and assembly line workers from defunct manufacturing plants like Maytag and others and invest on reopening those manufacturing’s and call back to work the thousands that labor there before 2,001, then we will be in a great economic recovery.
    Obama needs to tell that to GE’s Jeffrey Immelt. Bring back home their outsource manufacturing and forget about greed. Too bad our Prez pick Immelt for that job. The man is driven by greed only.
    We Americans need to start demanding and buying “made in the USA only” if we want our jobs back. Do it also by taxing imports NOW, because this free trade is one way only, IN and very detrimental.

  14. linda says:

    I received the attached email today. Thought I’d share it:



    COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in America.
    ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It’s 9%
    COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?
    ABBOTT: No, that’s 17%
    COSTELLO: You just said 9%.
    ABBOTT: 9% Unemployed.
    COSTELLO: Right — 9% out of work.
    ABBOTT: No, that’s 17%.

    COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 17% unemployed.
    ABBOTT: No, that’s 9%…
    COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE. Is it 9% or 17%?
    ABBOTT: 9% are unemployed. 17% are out of work.
    COSTELLO: If you are out of work you are unemployed?
    ABBOTT: No, you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.
    ABBOTT: No, you miss my point.
    COSTELLO: What point?
    ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.
    COSTELLO: To whom?
    ABBOTT: The unemployed.
    COSTELLO: But they are ALL out of work.
    ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work, stopped looking. They gave up. And, if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

    COSTELLO: So if you’re off the unemployment role that would count as less unemployment?
    ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!
    COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?
    ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how you get to 9%. Otherwise it would be 17%.You don’t want to read about 17% unemployment do ya?

    COSTELLO: That would be frightening.
    ABBOTT: Absolutely.
    COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means they’re two ways to bring down the unemployment number?
    ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.
    COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?
    ABBOTT: Correct.
    COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

    ABBOTT: Bingo.

    COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to just stop looking for work.

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like an economist.

    COSTELLO: I don’t even know what in the heck I just said.

  15. says:

    when is everyone going to figure out that it doesn’t matter who is in the white house!

  16. Jojo says:

    To linda: I like it, hehe, haha. Now that’s how they get unemployment figures.

    • linda says:

      Jojo: Good article. That is pretty much what it boils down to. People are disappearing from the unemployment roles, but it does not mean they are working. The longer you are out of work, the less likely they are to hire you.

      Suggestion: Stay active in community volunteer work. Look for places you can use your skills and document that in your resume. Show some form of continued work, improvement of your skills, take some classes. All of it should go on your resume.

      I think what employers are afraid of is that you are content to stay home. Show them they are wrong.

  17. Geezer Butler says:

    Some mighty good comments here – especially Linda, Jojo, palmcoaster, & The Truth.

    I’ll put my 2 cents in by saying that I know of three families that recently moved out
    of Palm Coast because of employment issues. I know of a few people are considering
    leaving for good.

    Unless you’re in the medical field, there’s nothing here that pays good wages.
    (that I know of)

    Compounding matters is the price of gasoline, which makes a Jacksonville and Orlando
    commute unrealistic for most. There’s also the added pressure of needing a late model car
    for these adventures.

    I enjoy the peace and quiet here in Palm Coast, but sadly, I know that I have to go soon.

    I will miss this place.

  18. Jojo says:

    Sorry to hear that Geezer.

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