Franklin County continues to have the lowest unemployment rate in the three county region, with a slightly smaller workforce than it had one year ago.

According to preliminary numbers released Friday, Franklin’s 3.2 percent jobless rate in March was three-tenths of 1 percentage point lower than in February, when it was 3/5 percent. A total of 150 people were on the jobless rolls, 14 fewer than in February, and the labor force grew by 54 workers, from 4,689 to 4,743.

The county’s March rate was one-half of 1 percentage point better than one year ago, when it was 4.7 percent and the labor force was larger, at 4,772, and the jobless rolls were larger, at 178.

Franklin County’s jobless rate tied it Orange, Seminole and Walton counties for fourth best in the state. Ahead were Monroe at 3.1 percent, and Okaloosa and St. Johns County tied for best in the state, at 3.0 percent.

The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Gulf Coast region (Bay, Franklin, and Gulf counties) was 3.6 percent in March, six-tenths of 1 percentage point lower than the region's year ago rate of 4.2 percent. Bay and Gulf counties’ jobless both dropped from 4.0 to 3.7 percent.

The Franklin County unemployment rate for March was lower than both the state average of 3.9 percent, and national average of 4.1 percent.

The region's March unemployment rate was two-tenths of 1 percentage point lower than the state rate of 3.8 percent. The labor force was 100,692, up 1,679 over the year, with 3,675 unemployed residents in the region.

“We held a job fair in Eastpoint in early March with 18 employers participating in sectors ranging from hospitality to state government and medical services. Employer demand is currently very high in Franklin County. It is a great time to connect to a career here,” said Kim Bodine, executive director of CareerSource Gulf Coast.

Franklin County reported no commercial permits issued but one residential permit issued, compared to three for the same period last year. Bay County reported March residential permits issued at a number 20 percent higher than February, and one commercial permit pulled. Gulf County did not report permits pulled.

Franklin County’s bed tax collections for January reflect an increase of 19 percent over Jan. 2017 and a 27.6 percent increase over Dec. 2017 numbers. The February Gulf County bed tax collections are up 35.6 percent from January; Mexico Beach’s February bed tax collections up by over 19 percent from January. Bay County reports bed tax collections for Feb. 2018 at approximately 8 percent over the previous year and 34 percent above Jan. 2018.

In March 2018 nonagricultural employment in the Panama City metro area was 85,700, an increase of 1,700 jobs, and the third fastest annual job growth rate compared to metro areas in the state in professional and business services.

The mining, logging, and construction; professional and business services; financial activities; leisure and hospitality; and trade, transportation, and utilities industries grew faster in the metro area than statewide over the year.

The industries gaining in jobs over the year were: professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; mining, logging, and construction; trade, transportation, and utilities; financial activities; and education and health services.

The manufacturing; government; and information industries lost jobs over the year.