Franklin County’s unemployment rate dropped a bit last month, as the workforce continues to shrink during the offseason.



According to preliminary numbers released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the county’s jobless rate for December stood at 5.3 percent, a decline of one-tenth of 1 percent, from 5.4 percent in November.



The unemployment rolls shed 10 people last month, dropping from 279 to 269 people in search of work. This decrease in unemployment occurred as the workforce shrank by 129 people, from 5,167 to 5,038. The current work force has 214 fewer workers than one year ago, when it comprised 5,252 workers and the jobless rate was sharply higher, at 6.6 percent.



Franklin County’s December jobless picture dropped it from its long-standing position as one of the 10 best counties in the state for joblessness. It was tied in December with Clay County for 17th best, behind Wakulla, Holmes and Nassau all tied for 14th, and Sumter, Santa Rosa, Leon, Seminole and Bradford, all tied for ninth.



Franklin was also worse for unemployment than Broward, in eighth place; Jefferson seventh; Jackson sixth; Alachua and St. Johns tied for fourth; Okaloosa third; Walton second; and Monroe first. Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates have relatively high proportions of government employment.



Franklin had the lowest unemployment in the Gulf Coast Workforce Region, which also includes Bay and Gulf counties, at 6.3 and 6.4 percent, respectively. The region’s overall rate was 6.3 percent in December, 2.2 percentage points lower than the region’s year ago rate, and 0.4 of a percentage point above the state rate of 5.9 percent.



Out of a labor force of 94,159, there were 5,885 unemployed Gulf Coast residents.



 “Hiring is strong for this time of year and we expect it to stay that way until the tourism season kicks off this spring,” said Kim Bodine, executive director for Gulf Coast Workforce Board. “In fact, the Workforce Center will host several job fairs and hiring events throughout February to assist local employers fill open positions,”



Upcoming job fairs include a Feb. 3 General Dynamics Job Fair at the Workforce Center, hiring for customer service representatives’ a Feb. 7 Bay County Job Fair at Haney Technical Center; and a Feb. 15 Job Fair at Pier Park.



The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach metro area (Bay County) had 69,400 nonagricultural jobs in the area, down 600 jobs over the year. The Gulf Coast Workforce Board continues to question the accuracy of the job loss estimates.



“We believe these numbers will change and show positive increases in employment once the state completes the benchmarking process which adjusts numbers based on actual tax records,” said Bodine.



Four out of 10 industries gained jobs over the year and three industries lost jobs over the year. Mining, logging, and construction (+200 jobs) gained the most jobs, followed by manufacturing, professional and business services, and education and health services (+100 jobs each). The industries losing jobs were government (-600 jobs); leisure and hospitality (-300 jobs); and trade, transportation, and utilities (-200 jobs). Information, financial activities, and other services remained unchanged over the year.