Franklin County’s unemployment rate dropped under 6 percent in March, and is now at the same level it was one year ago.
According to preliminary numbers released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the county’s jobless rate for March stood at 5.9 percent, a drop of two-tenths of 1 percent, from 6.1 percent in February.
The unemployment rolls shed four people in March, shrinking from 313 to 309 people in search of work. This decrease in joblessness occurred as the workforce grew by 148 people, from 5,092 to 5.240. The current work force has 119 more workers than one year ago, when it comprised 5,121 workers and the jobless rate was the same, at 5.9 percent.
The March jobless picture tied the county with Orange County, for 24th best among Florida’s 67 counties. Franklin was worse for unemployment than Bay, Union, Sarasota, Jackson, Clay, Holmes, Nassau, Jefferson, Baker, Collier, Seminole, Broward, Bradford, Leon, Wakulla, Liberty, St. Johns, Sumter, Alachua, Okaloosa, Walton, and Monroe, the state’s best at 3.8 percent.
The CareerSource Gulf Coast (CSGC) had a positive month in March with a measurable drop in the unemployment rate, according to the data. Individually, Bay and Franklin Counties both posted declines. However, Gulf County remained unchanged from February.
The unemployment rate in the CSGC region (Bay, Franklin, and Gulf counties) was 5.9 percent in March, a rate 1.0 percentage points lower than the region’s year-ago rate of 6.9 percent, and one-half of a percentage point below the February 2014 regional rate of 6.4.
It also outpaces the entire state, which posted a March 2014 unemployment rate of 6.4. Out of a labor force of 104,065, there were 6,095 unemployed CareerSource Gulf Coast residents, nearly 400 less than the previous month.
“While we are pleased to see positive indicators in some areas, we know that our rural counties continue to face challenges in bringing new jobs into their communities,” said Kim Bodine, executive director of CSGC. “Franklin County has been impacted negatively by the fisheries failure, which is hard to detect with the methods used in determining the unemployment rate and is not usually reflected accurately in these numbers.
“Gulf County is working hard to attract more jobs, but it is a challenge,” Bodine said. “There are many signs of continued economic recovery, but we need to see wages make a stronger post-recession gain. Wage gains drive consumer spending, which helps drive hiring.”