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News Story
Updated: 07/24/2013 08:02:04AM

Jobless numbers below national average; Polk numbers rise

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TALLAHASSEE — The unemployment rate in Florida held steady at 7.1 percent in June, Gov. Rick Scott said last week while in Polk County the figure was 8.4 percent. That figure is 0.06 percent higher than May, but down from 10.3 percent in the last 12 months.

The latest numbers show an additional 2,300 private sector jobs in the Sunshine State. In Polk County statistics show there are 1,459 more people unemployed in the June figures compared the May figures.

Polk had 4,200, or 2.2 percent, fewer jobs compared to May. The county dropped 0.3 percent in June, a loss of 600 jobs on an annual basis. The higher unemployment rate may not be unusual, according to Marybeth Soderstrom, a community outreach coordinator with Polk Works.

“Overall when you look at unemployment in Polk County you’re getting a rate that is not seasonally adjusted. You have to look year to year and we went up a little.”

She said during this time of year it’s usual the unemployment rate rises.

A mark that jobs are not declining in the county one can look at he Race to Place event that started at the beginning of the year and ended June 30. In it, Polk Works was seeking to place 10,000 people into the work force. It placed 10,488.

“We met our goal for that,” Soderstrom, who headed up the Race to Place said. “And, we have had a increase (in jobs) than we did last year.”

The figures dropping statewide is positive news, Scott said last week.

“The creation of more than 2,000 private sector jobs last month is further evidence of the state’s continuing economic recovery,” Scott said.

The release of the monthly numbers came against a backdrop of protesters calling for the governor to return to the Capitol to address their concerns about the “stand your ground” law and Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins’ decision to resign.

Wilkins’ agency is embroiled in a controversy about the deaths of four children since May 16 and a dispute with local child-welfare agencies.

The 7.1 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in Florida since September 2008 and remains below the national mark of 7.6 percent.

Florida has been below the national average for four months.

The monthly statewide number also comes as Scott has traveled for several new job announcements.

Last Wednesday, Scott was in the western Panhandle as CHCS Services, a California-owned information technology company announced plans to bring up to 385 jobs to Pensacola and West Fraser Timber Co.’s saw mill in McDavid introduced plans to hire 80.

On Thursday, Scott announced Bristol-Myers Squibb planned to locate a facility in Tampa that would create 579 life sciences jobs.

“Announcements like this from Bristol-Myers Squibb show that companies are taking notice of our economic turnaround and that it’s working in Florida,” Scott stated in a separate release.

The need for jobs has also been playing out in recent weeks as communities across the state cobble together financial packages intended to entice Internet giant Amazon to open one of the planned distribution “fulfillment” centers that would result in 3,000 jobs and more than $300 million in investments within Florida.

On Thursday, the Hillsborough County Commission approved the second half of its offer, agreeing to pitch $6.4 million in property-tax exemptions over a seven year period. Last month, the commission agreed to offer up to $225,000 as a partial match needed for the state’s Qualified Targeted Industries Tax Refund Program.

Hillsborough County hopes to get 450 higher-wage jobs and to see more when Amazon makes a $200 million capital investment in the county. Last week, Polk County commissioners approved 10 years worth of tax incentives worth up to $4.5 million for the Seattle-based company that is expected to create 100 high-paying jobs and spend at least $10 million on the new facility.

Commissioners hope this move will help Florida’s economy. While it has been common for Polk to be ranked among the top 10 counties in unemployment, June’s figures show Polk ranked 13th highest among the state’s 67 counties.

Three counties have figures in double digits — Hendry, 13.5 percent, Flagler, 10.2 percent and St. Lucie,
10.1 percent. Two counties are below
5 percent, and those are Walton at
4.2 percent and Monroe at 4.1 percent.