One of the two primary goals of the CEP is to create and retain jobs in our community. Four of our five core areas are organized around this goal. You will often see our five-year goal of impacting the announced creation of 4500 new jobs if you attend a CEP event or browse our website. However, job creation is more than just the projects that we directly impact. In fact, if we are doing our jobs then the community should see greater economic impact and job creation.
One way many people track the status of the job market is through the unemployment rate. While there are some real challenges with this approach, it does provide a good barometer of what is happening in our community. Using the latest numbers available (March 2017), the current unemployment rate in the Ocala MSA (Marion County) is 5.1 percent. This is a tremendous improvement from just a few years ago when it surpassed 14 percent. Additionally, when you look at the three-county workforce the numbers remain very positive. Marion County is the center of a regional workforce shed so these numbers are important. The unemployment in this region was 5.2 percent with nearly 5,900 more people employed than a year ago.
While the unemployment numbers are a popular benchmark and often discussed in the news, it is another metric which we track more closely. The private, non-farm payroll report is for the CEP a much better reflection of the workforce and employment. You often hear this number discussed when the Federal Reserve is meeting. In the Ocala MSA, this number shows the region has created more than 13,000 jobs in the last few years which is a 14 percent increase. The resulting annual job growth rate for our community remains around 4 percent which is one-third higher than the Florida average and 2.5 times the national rate. Regardless of the measurement you choose, it is hard to deny the significant job creation which is occurring in our community.
Two and half years ago, Best Version Media partnered with the CEP on the creation of a new magazine, Partner Connections. While they are the experts at neighborhood publications, this was something new and different for them. Yet, they have been an incredible partner throughout this run. They came forward with a willingness to partner and we are so grateful for them.
However, like all good things, this particular publication has run its course. BVM is still a CEP partner and we will work with them on future opportunities. This will be the last issue of this magazine. The CEP will continue to tell the stories of our partners and the exciting things happening in this community with a couple of new publications later in the year. They will be different from Partner Connections but we hope will help continue to develop this medium with our partners. We will share more later but please join me in thanking Tina Atha, Klodiana Palushi, and the BVM team for their great support and partnership.