Jacksonville’s unemployment rate was basically steady in February but job growth slowed, according to data released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
The unemployment rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area — consisting of Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties — fell from 5.8 percent in January to 5.6 percent in February, the agency said. However, it does not adjust the data for seasonal factors.
The University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project reported when the data is seasonally adjusted, it shows the area’s jobless rate was little changed from 5.5 percent in January to 5.56 percent in February.
The state agency’s data shows both the number of people in the Jacksonville area with jobs and those who said they were unemployed both dropped in February, as more than 4,000 people dropped out of the labor force.
That may be a hangover from the holiday season, when businesses tend to beef up their staff and then lay off extra workers in the new year.
“The spring pickup in employment usually doesn’t happen until March or April,” said UNF economist Paul Mason.
However, Mason also said the drop in available workers could be a sign that more discouraged people are dropping out of the labor force. When people are not actively looking for a job, they are not counted as unemployed and are considered to be out of the work force.
The employment report came a day after the U.S. Census Bureau reported Jacksonville and other Florida metropolitan areas had some of the largest population increases in the nation last year. The Jacksonville area population grew by about 23,000 from July 1, 2013, through July 1, 2014, it said.
Mason said the population growth includes children and retirees, not necessarily people coming to Jacksonville for employment opportunities.
The Department of Economic Opportunity also said its survey of businesses showed that Jacksonville area companies added 16,800 workers to their payrolls from February 2014 through February 2015, a 2.7 percent growth rate. But that was down from 3.1 percent growth in January.
The state agency also said Duval County’s unemployment rate fell from 6.2 percent in January to 6 percent last month, not seasonally adjusted.
According to LEIP, when the data is adjusted, it shows the county’s jobless rate was basically unchanged, from 6.07 percent in January to 6.04 percent in February.
St. Johns County had the second-lowest unemployment rate in the state last month at 4.1 percent, behind Monroe County’s 3.9 percent, the state agency said. Another Northeast Florida county, Putnam, continued to have the highest jobless rate in the state at 8.2 percent.
The statewide seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell by 0.1 percentage point last month to 5.6 percent.