News-Sun photo by BARRY FOSTER Hostess Brands store manager Felicia Laforge rings up early birds Saturday morning as customers flocked in to get last'minute deals at the Avon Park outlet store. Alas, the Twinkies had been sold out Friday. Laforge said the store will remain open until the inventory has been sold.
published: Sunday, November 18, 2012
Unemployment picture better, but not for all
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING -- While Highlands County's unemployment rate shrunk to its lowest level in years last month, the employment gains could soon take a hit from companies beginning to downsize.
One immediate casualty locally is employees of the former Hostess Brands store on State Road 64 West in Avon Park. Store manager Felicia Laforge said they will sell down their inventory then lock the doors.
"We could be open as late as this coming Tuesday," she said. "We sold out of the Twinkies on Friday."
The abrupt closure notice came in response to parent company Hostess Brands' announcement this past week that it is winding down operations and has filed a motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking permission to close its business and sell its assets, including its iconic brands and facilities. Bakery operations have been suspended at all plants
This past Tuesday, Hostess permanently closed three plants as a result of a work stoppage. Wednesday, the company announced it would be forced to liquidate if sufficient employees did not return to work to restore normal operations by Thursday.
That didn't happen.
The Avon Park store had been open for better than a decade. It also means unemployment for seven workers there.
Meanwhile, the October unemployment numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics were looking good. Figures released Friday indicated of the 43,878 people listed as comprising Highlands County's labor force, there were 3,797 people out of work. That made for an 8.7 percent unemployment rate here last month.
The number was six tenths of a percent better than the county's 9.3 percent joblessness rate in September and 2 percent down from the same time a year ago.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics so-called "labor force participation rate" -- the percentage of population that is employed or looking for work -- seems to be a shrinking figure.
In Florida it has dwindled 3.8 percentage points over the past four years to an estimated 55 percent. The national average of 63.6 percent is the lowest since 1981, when America was emerging from the Carter recession.
A reduction in the labor force participation rate mathematically triggers a lower total unemployment figure.
According to BLS numbers, Highlands County's unemployment figure was the best in the Heartland, a half percent better than Polk County's 9.2 percent and besting neighbor Hardee County's 9.4 percent, the highest in the region.
Nevertheless, all of the Heartland counties were well above the statewide and national averages, which were listed at 8.5 and 7.9 percent, respectively.
Statewide, Florida 's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in October. That was down two tenths of a percent from September and the lowest rate since December 2008. The Sunshine State's seasonally adjusted total non-agricultural employment was 7,371,500 in October, a reported increase of 14,700 jobs over the month.
October was the 27th consecutive month with positive annual job growth after the state lost jobs for three years. The industry gaining the most jobs was professional and business services.
Other industries gaining jobs included trade, transportation and utilities, private education and health services.
Industries losing jobs over the year included total government, construction and manufacturing. These industry job losses were partially due to declines in local and state government, heavy and civil engineering construction, membership organizations, telecommunications and chemical manufacturing.
Across Florida, Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate at12.6 percent while Monroe County's 4.7 percent was the state's lowest unemployment rate.
Condoning Crime? (by: MeNotYou - 11/20/2012)
Are you saying it's ok to steal, or do other illegal activity as long as you're down and out?
touists average per yr. (by: KEITH 'TOBY; STOKES - 11/20/2012)
Barry--- can you tell me how manny come to Florida each year. Then can you tell me how manny come to Highlands County per year. I have asked John this question but no answer as yet.
Living wage? (by: Sad APer - 11/19/2012)
But how many employees make enough to live in Highlands County without govt subsidies? I left AP because the best job I could get paid $9/hr plus benefits, 23 miles from home. It required me to be away from my child during emergencies. And there were regular threats that hours would be cut to part-time (no benefits). Can't pay the mortgage or even the babysitter on that. I short-sold my house and moved south, where employers realize it's not 1970 anymore...
the forgotten (by: Realest - 11/18/2012)
Highlands county unemployment only shrunk because of the unemployed in jail & prison not because they're bad people,but because of living conditions forced them into crime after repeated declines in the business world.
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