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Jax Daily Record Monday, May 25, 201512:00 PM EST

'All the news is really good' in unemployment report

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate dropped in April, with a pickup in construction activity helping to add jobs in the region.

The jobless rate for the Jacksonville metropolitan area — Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties — fell from 5.5 percent in March to 5.1 percent in April, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Friday.

The state agency does not adjust that data for seasonal factors but according to the University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project (LEIP), when the data is seasonally adjusted, it shows the unemployment rate dropped from 5.62 percent to 5.3 percent in April.

“All the news is really good,” said UNF economist Paul Mason.

“I still wouldn’t call this full employment, but I think it’s getting closer,” he said.

Mason said one factor helping the area’s economy grow has been an increase in building permit activity, which appears to be generating more construction jobs.

The Department of Economic Opportunity reported that construction firms in the Jacksonville area added 1,200 workers in April and over the past 12 months, construction employment is up by 2,000 jobs, a 6.3 percent increase.

That’s the largest growth rate of any major industry sector in the area, but the leisure and hospitality sector is close with a 6.1 percent growth rate in the past year.

Total non-agricultural employment in the Jacksonville area has grown by 16,500 from April 2014 through April 2015, a 2.7 percent growth rate.

While industries like construction and hospitality are growing strongly, a couple of key industry sectors are losing jobs. Information industry jobs have dropped by 3.3 percent in the past year, and the financial sector is down by 0.7 percent.

Jacksonville’s job growth is lagging the statewide growth rate of 3.6 percent in the 12-month period. However, Jacksonville’s unemployment rate is better than Florida’s statewide seasonally-adjusted jobless rate of 5.6 percent in April, down 0.1-point from March.

Duval County’s unemployment rate fell from 5.9 percent in March to 5.5 percent last month, without seasonal adjustment, the Department of Economic Opportunity said. LEIP reported that on a seasonally-adjusted basis, Duval County’s jobless rate fell from 6.07 percent to 5.7 percent.

St. Johns County had the second-lowest unemployment rate in the state in April at 3.7 percent (unadjusted), behind Monroe County’s 3.6 percent rate, the Department of Economic Opportunity said.

At the other end of the scale, Putnam County equaled Citrus County with the highest unemployment rate last month at 7.2 percent.

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