The state’s employment numbers for March were released today. The data indicates a continued trend in private sector job growth even as Florida’s unemployment rate increased slightly.
The state added 20,900 jobs last month which officials said was the largest yearly job growth gain since between June of 2005 and June of 2006. There was growth in all ten industry sectors the state measures.
Meanwhile the unemployment rate increased to 6.3%. Prior to March, the unemployment rate had remained stagnant at 6.2% since December of 2013. Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Director Jesse Panuccio said the unemployment rate is a mixed indicator and the increase isn’t necessarily bad news. “You really need to be looking at the labor force and what’s happening there and what we’ve seen over the last few months is that people are returning to the labor force and as they return it may mean the decline in unemployment will be slower,” said Panuccio. “But then you really have to look at what’s happening which is jobs are being added and people are coming back to the labor force that are really more encouraged about our economy.”
In Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Lee Counties, the unemployment rate actually dropped a tenth of a percent from February. In Sarasota the unemployment rate held steady at 6.0%.
Meanwhile, DEO continues to work out problems with the state’s online system CONNECT which has kept thousands of job seekers from receiving unemployment compensation since its launch last October. “Many of the major defects that we had early on have been resolved,” said Panuccio. “Through a variety of work arounds and staff increases we’ve been able to get service levels actually better than they were before we launched. So, we’ve got the call center answering all the calls that are coming in. Yes, some problems can arise here and there, but the difference now is we’re able to address them quickly.”
The company hired to create the online system, Deloitte Consulting LLC, is still on the job and the state is working to amend its contract with the company.