TALLAHASSEE — The economic recovery got back on track in September as local, state and national unemployment rates improved.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released its September employment report Friday. It showed that jobless rates in 66 of the state’s 67 counties had either gone down or stayed even compared to August. Only Bay County’s unemployment rate increased, going from 7.9 percent in August to 8 percent last month.
“The unemployment rate has now declined or held steady over the month for 14 of the last 15 months,” said Rebecca Rust, chief economist for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “We’ve been below that double-digit level of 10 percent for 10 months, and when you look at the peak unemployment rate during the recession, it was 11.4 percent. So we’ve decline all the way to 8.7 from that time period.”
Walton County’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent, and again had the second lowest jobless rate in Florida behind Monroe County’s 5 percent.
Okaloosa County’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.1 percent in August to 5.9 percent last month, which was the third lowest unemployment rate in the state. Santa Rosa County’s unemployment rate was 7.5 percent, down from August’s 8 percent rate. Santa Rosa tied with Broward County for the 15th lowest jobless rate.
“For Okaloosa and Walton counties, you have the employed military personnel that have not been affected by this (economic downturn) and you have the retired military personnel,” said David Goetsch, a local economist. “That gives us a real static base for our economy that’s not going to fluctuate much at all. Walton and Okaloosa have been the low guys throughout this recession and the quasi-improvement.
“I think the nationwide decline in unemployment and Florida’s decrease in unemployment can be attributed to much the same factors, and that’s the improvement in the construction industry,” Goetsch added. “The housing industry is actually beginning to go back into building mode, so you’re beginning to see that in the unemployment numbers.”
Construction is still down 5,000 jobs statewide for the year, but has made significant gains in recent months. Rust said the state gained 3,900 construction jobs in September and 4,200 in August.
Friday’s report was the final one before the presidential election Nov. 6, but Goetsch said he does not think the numbers will have much of an impact on the outcome.
“I think the president will attempt to make it have an effect,” Goetsch said. “The problem is, I don’t think people accept the numbers. You can tweak this and tweak that and make the numbers appear better.”
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.