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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Unemployment rate drops to 8.5 percent in Marion County amid COVID-19 crisis

The unemployment rate in Marion County was 8.5 percent in June, with that number rising slightly to 8.8 percent in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region.

That’s down 2.4 percentage point over the month, 4.4 percentage point higher than the region’s rate a year ago and 1.9 percentage point lower than the state rate of 10.7 percent. There were 17,204 unemployed in the region – 4,460 fewer than in May and 8,339 more than June 2019 when the jobless rate was 4.0 percent.

The region’s labor force was 194,802, an increase of 926 since May and a loss of 7,341 over the year. There were 177,598 employed, representing a one-month increase of 5,386 and a drop of 15,680 compared to June 2019.

Nonfarm employment in the Ocala/Marion County metropolitan statistical area was 104,400, a decrease of 1,300 jobs (-1.2 percent) over the year.

The Ocala MSA had both the highest annual job growth and job growth rate in trade, transportation and utilities at 300 jobs and 1.2 percent compared to all the metro areas in the state.

In addition, mining, logging and construction grew faster in the metro area than statewide, adding 400 new jobs for a growth rate of 4.7 percent over the year.

According to the preliminary jobs report for June, released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Levy County had the lowest jobless rate in the region at 7.5 percent – down 1.6 percentage point over the month. Marion County followed at 8.5 percent – a 2.2 percentage point drop. And Citrus County’s rate was 10.2 percent – down 3.1 percentage point from May.

Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – was 10.7 percent, down 2.8 percentage point over the month and an increase of 7.4 percentage point compared to June 2019. The nation’s jobless rate was 11.2 percent, down from 13 percent in May and up 7.4 percentage point over the year.

Rusty Skinner, chief executive officer for CareerSource CLM, said the June report offers plenty of reason to be “cautiously optimistic.”

“This unemployment data for our three-county area shows a positive movement in all three counties,” Skinner said.  “Labor force and employment have increased, while the number of our citizens that are unemployed has decreased. We should be positive about this movement in June, but also be cautiously optimistic. We continue to see major hiring in Marion County as a result of its economic development efforts and this likely affects all our counties.”

Skinner noted that that in addition to continuing to offer fee-free virtual assistance to businesses and job seekers and providing in-person services, by appointment only at the region’s career centers, CareerSource CLM now offers virtual job fairs and hiring events.

“We had nearly 300 job seekers register for last month’s job fair, held via Zoom, and businesses are really embracing this option,” Skinner said. “At the same time, we continue to explore ways to offer training and certifications that serve both employers and candidates.”

Other initiatives include a grant to place those laid off due to COVID-19 in paid positions with area nonprofits, and an Electronic Associate apprenticeship with Lockheed Martin.

Skinner reiterated that while none of the CareerSource Florida regions administer the state’s Reemployment Assistance (unemployment insurance) program, staff has restricted ability to assist claimants.

“It’s often easier to work with us directly to get answers,” he said. “We can’t promise we’ll be able to solve all issues, and we can’t process or expedite payments, but we can help in spotting red flags which may be holding things up.”

Statewide, 63 counties including Citrus, Levy and Marion saw drops in unemployment, while four counties experienced slight increases ranging from 0.1 to 0.3 percent points.