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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 27, 201412:00 PM EST

Area jobless rate hits lowest level since mid-2008

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate fell in December for the eighth straight month, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.

The jobless rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area – consisting of Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties – fell from 5.9 percent in November to 5.6 percent in December, the lowest level since mid-2008.

The state agency does not adjust its data for seasonal factors, such as Christmas hiring by retailers. However, the University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project said that when the data is seasonally adjusted, it shows the unemployment rate falling from 6.06 percent in November to 5.89 percent in December.

Duval County’s unemployment rate fell by 0.3-points to 5.9 percent in December, the state agency said, but on a seasonally adjusted basis, the county rate dropped more sharply from 6.55 percent to 5.68 percent, according to LEIP.

The unemployment rate was in double digits through mid-2011 but has been falling nearly every month since then.

In some of those months, there wasn’t actually a decline in the number of unemployed people but instead an increase in the number of people looking for work, which made the unemployment rate fall.

UNF economist Paul Mason pointed out that the December drop in the unemployment rate is more impressive because the total number of people in the labor force (people with jobs and those actively looking for work) actually declined, but the jobless rate still fell because the number of unemployed fell by about 2,500 in the Jacksonville area.

Florida’s statewide unemployment rate fell by 0.2-points to a seasonally adjusted 6.2 percent in December, the Department of Economic Opportunity said. Both Florida and Jacksonville were below the national seasonally adjusted jobless rate of 6.7 percent.

However, job growth in Jacksonville was lower than the state and the rest of the nation, according to government surveys of business payrolls.

The number of non-farm jobs in the Jacksonville area rose by 8,800 from December 2012 through December 2013, a 1.4 percent growth rate, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Florida’s growth rate was 2.6 percent in that period, while the national growth rate was 1.6 percent.

Most industry sectors are growing in the Jacksonville area but two major sectors reported declines in jobs through 2013.

The education and health services sector lost 1,100 jobs last year, a 1.2 percent drop, and government workers at the federal, state and local level fell by 1,500, a 2 percent drop.

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