December jobs report: Area moving out of ‘COVID slump’

File photo: Construction workers build a large block wall. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

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Posted January 28, 2022 | By James Blevins

The unemployment rate in the tri-county region consisting of Marion, Citrus, and Levy Counties was 4.1 percent in December 2021—0.2 percentage points lower than the previous month, and 0.2 percentage points higher than the region’s year-ago rate of 3.9 percent, according to a CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion (CLM) press release.

Across the region, the labor force was 212,657, up 11,284 over the year for an annual growth rate of 5.6 percent. The number of those with jobs rebounded to 203,849, an increase of 1,140 over the month and 10,410 more than December 2020. The number of unemployed dropped by 375 over the month to 8,808.

Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM, said the expansion of the labor force, coupled with an increase in jobs, “indicates our area’s move out of the COVID slump,” adding that more job seekers are returning to the career centers as well.

“This long-term growth in employment and labor force participation shows a positive response to the job opportunities of our area businesses,” he said. “It represents the steady recovery of our three counties.”

Marion County had the 13th highest unemployment rate in the state of Florida. Ocala was fifth highest amongst metro areas.

According to the Jan. 21 release of preliminary employment numbers by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Marion County holds a jobless rate of 4.0 percent, a decrease of a 0.2 percent percentage point.

Florida’s not-seasonally-adjusted jobless rate—a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated—was 3.2 percent, a decrease of 0.4 percentage point over the month and 1.0 percent lower than December 2020. The nonagricultural employment in the Ocala metropolitan statistical area, which covers all of Marion County, was 111,800 in December, an increase of 3,000 jobs over the year for a 2.8 percent annual growth rate.

Marion County’s labor force also grew by 628 to 146,284 over November, the number of those with jobs increased by 922 to 140,453, and the number of unemployed dropped by 294 to 5,831. Compared to the same time last year when the jobless rate was 3.8 percent, the labor force grew by 7,563 and the number of employed increased by 7,023.

Compared to all the regions across the state, according to the release, the Ocala Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had the third fastest annual job growth rate in manufacturing at 7.1 percent, adding 700 new jobs for a total of 10,500 employed in the industry.

In addition to manufacturing, industries that grew faster in the Ocala metro area than statewide were other services (+11.1 percent); and mining, logging, and construction (+5.7 percent), adding 500 jobs for a total of 9,200.

Other industries gaining jobs over the year were trade, transportation, and utilities (+900 jobs for a total of 28,800); leisure and hospitality (+700 jobs for 12,500); education and health services (+500 jobs totaling 18,700); and professional and business services (+100 jobs for 10,400).

Industries losing jobs over the year were government (-600 jobs for a total of 14,500) and financial activities (-100 totaling 3,700). The information industry, with 500 jobs, was unchanged over the year.

Due to annual benchmarking in February, the region’s preliminary employment summary for January will be released on March 14.

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