published: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Summer slump for jobs
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING -- It's the middle of the summer doldrums in the Heartland and July unemployment figures released by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday reflect the time of year..
Of the 39,429 members listed as the county's workforce, there were 3,549 out of work here last month. That translated to a 9 percent joblessness figure. While it was up .7 percent from June numbers, it still was better than July 2012 when the county' s unemployment rate was said to be 10.7 percent.
Highlands' rate was well above both the seasonally and non-seasonally adjusted average for the state of Florida, which were registered as 7.1 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.
Statewide, officials of the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics listed trade transportation and utilities as the source for most of the jobs in the Sunshine State while manufacturing and government jobs were reported as Florida's job losers.
Locally, it appears to be simply a lack of customers, with a number of businesses, mostly restaurants, closing up to take vacations. Several owners have intimated it is less expensive for them to close the doors for several weeks until business picks up again when the winter residents and seasonal tourists return.
"This is the time of year that this happens," said Donna Doubleday, chief executive officer of Heartland Workforce. "We expect those numbers to improve by the end of August or beginning of September."
She said the department's five-year trends showed that current numbers are "pretty much on target," pointing to the lull in agriculture and the departure of winter residents as prime factors for the seasonal dip.
"You know, the restaurants and stores cut back employment. Even the doctor's offices don't have as many appointments," she said.
Highlands County was listed 12th in the state for July unemployment. Hendry County had the highest joblessness rate at 15.5 percent while Monroe and Walton counties tied for the lowest joblessness at 4.2 percent.
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