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Jax Daily Record Monday, Dec. 23, 201312:00 PM EST

Local unemployment hits 5-year low

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate fell to a five-year low in November, as the rate dropped below 6 percent for the first time since the recession.

The jobless rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area – consisting of Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties – fell from 6.1 percent in October to 5.8 percent in November, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.

Florida’s unemployment also fell to its lowest level since 2008 but remained higher than Jacksonville. The statewide jobless rate fell by 0.3 percentage points to a seasonally-adjusted 6.4 percent in November.

The state agency does not adjust the Jacksonville data for seasonal factors, such as holiday season hiring that typically increases employment in November and December. However, according to the University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project, when the data is seasonally adjusted, it shows Jacksonville’s unemployment rate fell from 6.3 percent in October to 5.86 percent in November.

“Things look good. It wasn’t just the Christmas season,” said UNF economist Paul Mason.

While Jacksonville’s unemployment rate was lower than Florida’s, Northeast Florida’s job growth rate was behind the statewide trend.

The Department of Economic Opportunity reported that the Jacksonville metropolitan area gained 11,600 jobs from November 2012 to November 2013, a 1.9 percent growth rate. Florida added 183,100 jobs in that 12-month period, a 2.5 percent growth rate.

Both Jacksonville and the state are doing better than the rest of the country. The U.S. unemployment rate was a seasonally-adjusted 7 percent in November and the national job growth rate was 1.7 percent.

Jacksonville’s growth has been helped by a big rebound in the construction industry, which was hit hard by the 2007-2008 recession. Construction jobs in the Jacksonville area have risen by 12 percent in the past year.

Other sectors showing strong growth include processional and technical services, up 7.8 percent, administrative and waste services, up 6.7 percent, and retail trade, up 6 percent.

Meanwhile, education and health services jobs have fallen by 1.3 percent and manufacturing jobs are down by 0.4 percent.

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