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S.W. Florida Daily News


Unemployment rates continue to fall in SWFL, even in less busy season

Someone completing an unemployment benefits form.
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In April, Collier County notched one of the lowest jobless rates in the state.

The county’s unemployment dropped to 1.9% last month, down from 2.2% in March and 3.6% a year ago. 

Only two other counties in Florida saw lower rates. 

Statewide, Monroe led the pack with its unemployment at 1.5%, followed by St. Johns County — at 1.7%.

Collier ranked third, in a five-way tie with Okaloosa, Nassau, Union and Gulf.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released the latest statistics Friday.

Statewide, unemployment fell to 2.4% in April (not seasonally adjusted). With adjustments, it stood at 3%, down from 3.2% in March. 

That compares to a national rate of 3.6%.

In case you missed it:Southwest Florida’s labor force keeps growing — but not enough to meet demand

Previously:Southwest Florida businesses raise pay, add perks to attract, keep workers

In the five-county region of Southwest Florida, the jobless rate dropped to 2.2% last month, down 3 percentage points from March.

Lee and Glades both logged a rate of 2.2%.

In Charlotte, unemployment came in at 2.4% — in line with the state’s.

Hendry weighed in at 3.3%.

Only a few counties had higher rates: Putnam (3.6%), Highlands (3.5%) and Hamilton (3.4%).

Citrus and Osceola shared the same rate as Hendry — the fourth-highest in the state. 

FGCU held a SWFL Veterans Expo and Job Fair Thursday, April 14, 2022.

Experts consider 4% full employment, as there are always workers between jobs, so it remains an employee’s market in Southwest Florida — and the state. 

While that’s good news for employees, businesses continue to struggle, with far more jobs than applicants. Competition for workers remains fierce.

“Employers are now starting to get very creative and look at other avenues for hiring people. A lot of them are willing to extend opportunities to people that may have had challenges in the past, and are looking for a second chance,” said Amy Hanna-Eckenrode, communications manager for CareerSource Southwest Florida. 

CareerSource matches job seekers with employers in the five-county region that includes Lee and Collier counties.

Asked if she expected jobless rates to continue falling in Southwest Florida, Hanna-Eckenrode said you have to guess and wonder when they’re this low outside of the busy season.

Her reaction when she saw unemployment hit 1.9% in Collier? “Wow,” she said, in a word.

“It’s truly an unprecedented time,” Hanna-Eckenrode said.

Jacqueline Garry, of Fort Myers and served in the Navy for 3 years, stopped at the  Artherx table as she searches for a job. FGCU held a SWFL Veterans Expo and Job Fair Thursday, April 14, 2022.

CareerSource continues to partner with employers on hiring events.

On Wednesday, it will host a Community Healthcare Career Expo and Job Fair from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., at its location on Plantation Drive in Fort Myers. Participating employers are prepared to hire on the spot.

While the labor market remains tight in Southwest Florida, it has been growing, allowing businesses to continue expanding in the region.

In April, Southwest Florida’s three metro areas — made up of Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties — added 23,900 jobs over the year, an increase of 4.9%.

The leisure and hospitality — or tourism — industry led the way, gaining 6,700 jobs

Other sectors ranking in the top five for job growth in Southwest Florida? Professional and business services (+4,400 jobs), trade, transportation and utilities (3,800 jobs), education and health services (+2,600 jobs), and construction (+2,100 jobs). 

Lee added the most jobs in the region — picking up 15,300 over the year.

Job seekers meet with potential employers at a regional career fair hosted by Career Source Southwest Florida on Tuesday, April 5, 2022 at Suncoast Arena on the FSW campus in Fort Myers.

Collier netted 6,400 and Charlotte gained 2,200.

In total, Florida added 58,600 jobs from March to April

The state gained 517,100 jobs over the year, an increase of 5.9%, compared to 4.6% nationally.

As of April, employers in Florida have added jobs for 24 months — since May 2020, when they started to recover from the initial blow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state lost more than 1.2 million jobs from February to April 2020 and has since gained back all of them — and more.

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