OCALA, Fla. (March 24, 2017) – Consistent with employment trends going back at least five years, the February jobless rate dropped over the month in Citrus, Levy and Marion counties.

According to today’s employment summary by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), the unemployment rate for the CareerSource CLM region was 5.9 percent, down 0.7 percentage point since January and the same rate as one year ago.

Out of an expanded labor force of 200,814, there were 11,802 unemployed residents in the region, a drop of 1,396 over the month. While that’s 247 more than in February 2016, there were 189,012 people with jobs throughout the three counties, an increase of 2,676 since January and 6,045 more than a year ago.

Additionally, the DEO reports that the Ocala metropolitan statistical area (MSA) continued to hold the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all metros in Florida in professional and business services, at 11.1 percent. The Ocala MSA had the second fastest job growth rate in trade, transportation and utilities at 5.8 percent.

Rusty Skinner, CareerSource CLM’s CEO said that the region hit the trifecta when it comes to economic indicators, posting an expanded labor force fueled by strong job gains and an across-the-board drop in the number of unemployed.

Levy County continued to post the lowest jobless rate in the region, at 5.0 percent, which down 0.7 percent; followed by Marion County at 5.7 percent, down from 6.4 percent; and Citrus County at 6.7 percent, down from 7.6 percent. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted rate was 4.7 percent, down over the month from 5.2 percent; and the nation’s rate was 4.9 percent, down from 5.1 percent.

Skinner said the February report is a good gauge of whether the optimism of job seekers resulted in their absorption into the ranks of the employed.

“That more than appears to be the case,” Skinner said, adding that in addition to job-seeker confidence, the previous month’s increase in unemployment was likely also fueled by post-holiday season staff adjustments. “The true test as to whether the economy is improving is whether those who have entered the labor force looking for work have been able to find it.”

Skinner noted that since at least 2012, February unemployment rates have dropped in all three counties.

The following is a breakdown of preliminary employment numbers for each county:

  • Citrus County’s labor force increased by 692 to 48,101, the number of employed rose by 1,017 to 44,874, and the number of those without jobs fell by 387 to 3,227 month. The number of unemployed was virtually unchanged from February 2016 when the rate was 7.2 percent, while the number of employed increased over the year by 367.
  • Levy County’s labor force expanded by 87 to 16,890, the number of employed increased by 208 to 16,048 and the number of unemployed dropped by 121 to 842. That’s 325 more employed and only 8 more unemployed compared to a year ago when the jobless rate was 5.1 percent.

Marion County’s labor force grew by 501 to 135,823, the number of employed increased by 1,389 to 128,090 and the number of jobless decreased by 888 to 7,733. While that is 245 more unemployed since February 2016 when the jobless rate was 5.8 percent, the number of those with jobs has increase by 5,353 over the year.

Among the counties, Citrus County continued to hold the third highest rate behind Sumter County at 7.0 percent and Hendry County at 7.2 percent; Marion County remained at 10th highest; and Levy County dropped two spots to 28th.

The Villages MSA continued to post the highest rate among the states metros, Homosassa Springs (Citrus County) was second and Ocala fell from third to fourth.

Much of the region’s strong job gains were fueled by the Ocala metro area which posted 103,100 nonfarm jobs in February, adding 4,000 new jobs over the year for a job growth rate of 4.0 percent. That outpaced the statewide growth rate of 2.9 percent and was the fifth fastest job growth rate among all of the state’s metro areas.

In all, seven nonfarm industry sectors rate in the Ocala metro added jobs over the year, and five those grew at a faster rate than statewide. For the second consecutive month, no industries lost jobs over the year.

Industries gaining jobs over the year were trade, transportation and utilities (+1,300 jobs); professional and business services (+1,000); education and health services (+700); mining, logging and construction (+600); manufacturing (+200); leisure and hospitality (+100); and other services (+100).

Professional and business services (+11.1 percent); mining, logging and construction (+9.0 percent); trade, transportation and utilities (+65.8 percent); and education and health services (+3.9 percent) grew faster in the metro area than statewide over the year.

Information, financial activities, and government industries were unchanged.

The Homosassa Springs MSA had 33,400 nonfarm jobs, adding 100 new jobs over the year for a 0.3 percent job growth rate, the lowest among Florida’s metro areas.

The March employment report will be released on Friday, April 21.


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