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Jax Daily Record Monday, Mar. 31, 201412:00 PM EST

More job seekers lead to higher unemployment rate

by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Jacksonville’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose last month, but only because more people are looking for work as the economic outlook improves.

The unemployment rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area — consisting of Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties — was 6.1 percent in February, unchanged from January, according to data released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

However, when the data is seasonally adjusted, it shows the jobless rate rose from 5.6 percent in January to 5.9 percent in February, according to the University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project. The state agency does not adjust its data for seasonal factors.

More people found jobs in February, but the unemployment rate rose because more people were actively looking for work. When jobless people are not actively looking for work, they are not counted as unemployed.

The Department of Economic Opportunity’s survey of business payrolls shows strong job growth in the Jacksonville area. From February 2013 through February 2014, the number of jobs rose by 19,800, or 3.3 percent.

The highest job growth came in the professional and business services sector, which rose by 10.6 percent in the 12-month period.

Other strong growth sectors were leisure and hospitality, up 6.9 percent, and construction, up 6 percent.

While most sectors are growing, the financial activities sector had a net loss of 600 jobs in the 12-month period, or 1 percent.

Jacksonville’s job growth rate was higher than Florida’s statewide growth of 2.8 percent, and the national growth rate of 1.6 percent.

Jacksonville’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is also better than Florida’s statewide jobless rate of 6.2 percent in February, unchanged from January. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged up by 0.1-point to 6.7 percent in February.

Duval County’s unemployment rate rose from 6.4 percent in January to 6.5 percent in February, the Department of Economic Opportunity said. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the Duval County rate rose from 6.15 percent to 6.22 percent, according to LEIP.

Two Northeast Florida counties were among the counties with the lowest unemployment in the state. St. Johns and Bradford counties each had jobless rates of 5.2 percent in February and tied for fifth-lowest among the state’s 67 counties. Monroe County was the lowest at 3.8 percent.

Flagler County had the second-highest unemployment rate in the state last month at 9.4 percent, behind Hendry County’s 9.8 percent.

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