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Paul Mason
Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 23, 201412:00 PM EST

Jacksonville jobless rate edges higher

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

After falling to a six-year low in April, Jacksonville’s unemployment rate edged higher in May, likely due to an influx of college students entering the labor force.

The jobless rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area – consisting of Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties – rose from 5.6 percent in April to 5.8 percent in May, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.

The number of jobs also increased last month but unemployment rose because the size of the area’s labor force grew by about 11,000 people. That’s a typical seasonal trend as college students, either graduating or looking for summer work, enter the labor force.

The state agency does not adjust its metro area data for seasonal factors but when the Jacksonville data is seasonally adjusted, it still shows an increase in the unemployment rate from 5.69 percent in April to 5.89 percent in May, the University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project (LEIP) said.

“The summer months are always difficult to forecast” because of the influx of both college and high school students, UNF economist Paul Mason said.

Duval County’s unemployment rate rose from 6 percent in April to 6.2 percent, according to the state’s data, but when it is seasonally adjusted, the county jobless rate actually fell from 6.06 percent to 5.84 percent, according to LEIP.

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate was lower than the rest of Florida and the rest of the country. Florida’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose by 0.1 percentage points to 6.3 percent, the state agency said, while the national rate was unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 6.3 percent.

Jacksonville also is growing jobs at a faster rate than the rest of the state and the nation.

From May 2013 through May 2014, Jacksonville businesses added 21,000 non-farm jobs, a 3.5 percent growth rate, the Department of Economic Opportunity said.

That’s better than Florida’s statewide 2.9 percent growth rate and the U.S. growth rate of 1.7 percent.

The fastest-growing major industry sectors in the Jacksonville area in the 12-month period were leisure and hospitality, up 12.2 percent, professional and business services, up 6.9 percent and construction, up 6.5 percent.

The only major private industry sector to lose jobs in the 12-month period was education and health services, down 0.1 percent. Government jobs were also down by 0.1 percent.

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