Construction workers contracted by EHC begin to work out curbs for a road on a current build site Friday on Vanderbilt Drive.
Posted: March 25, 2016
By Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News
The Naples area continues to grow jobs.
Led by the construction and hospitality industries, local businesses added 2,100 jobs over the year in February, according to data released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Construction led the way, creating 900 jobs. Leisure and hospitality wasn’t far behind, adding 800, as the peak of the busy winter season approached in March.
“With more than 2,000 new jobs created in the Naples area, it is clear that more families are finding opportunities to succeed in Southwest Florida. We have successfully cut taxes over 55 times since 2010, including more than $1 billion in taxes cut over the last two years, so we can continue to grow our economy. Florida is on the way to becoming first for jobs and we will not stop working until we reach our goal,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.
Jobless rates fell across Southwest Florida in February.
In Collier County the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent, down from 4.8 percent in January and 5 percent a year ago.
In Lee County the jobless rate in February was even lower at 4.3 percent. That was down from 4.7 percent a month earlier and from 5.1 percent last year.
The lower unemployment rates are forcing businesses to raise wages to attract and keep good workers, said Beth Barger, Naples center supervisor for CareerSource Southwest Florida, a publicly funded workforce agency that matches job seekers with employers.
Many of the new jobs are coming from new employers. The recent opening of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant along U.S. 41 in North Naples created 250 jobs.
“That’s huge, and that was all in hospitality and service. But they are also paying a fair wage,” Barger said.
The continued growth in construction jobs is another good sign, with hourly wages of $17 or more, she said.
“It means the economy is really starting to accelerate. So that is positive. It’s one of the first signs that we are getting back to a good economy,” Barger said.
CareerSource continues to help area employers with job fairs, as their search for available workers has gotten tougher. The Naples center recently helped Marshalls find managers for a new department store, but it’s not just big employers that are growing.
“We are seeing smaller companies grow and expand. So that is a good thing. It’s not all the big box companies,” Barger said.
The continued drop in the local unemployment rates have some wondering how low they can go, and how low is too low before it hurts the ability for businesses to grow.
The rates are not dangerously low yet, as they were right before the Great Recession, said Chris Westley, an economics professor and the director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University.
He expects to see employment rise and the unemployment rate fall again in March, which is usually the busiest month of the busy season that runs from November to April.
The strong job growth in the volatile construction and hospitality industries shows there is still a big need to diversify the region’s economy, Westley said.
“That’s a big concern of mine,” he said. “We tend to overheat during the booms, and we tend to overcorrect during the busts, partly because of the lack of diversification.”
Jim Wall, a spokesman for CareerSource Southwest Florida, said it appears from year-over-year data that Collier County started to recover sooner than Lee County from the Great Recession, but now Lee County is starting to catch up. “It’s all very good news,” he said.
The lower unemployment rates have triggered the federal government to require those who are collecting food stamps to go into a CareerSource center to get help with a job search. Locally, that became mandatory in January, Wall said.
There are still plenty of jobs out there. The Naples area had 4,891 job openings in February, including 959 in high-wage science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, occupations.
With such a tight labor supply, local employers are focused more on keeping their good workers than attracting new ones, Wall said.
Unemployment rates in Lee and Collier counties in February were both lower than the state average.
Florida’s jobless rate dropped to 4.9 percent last month, the state’s lowest in eight years. Over the year in February, Florida businesses created 235,200 jobs. Since December 2010, Florida has gained 1.06 million private-sector jobs.
“While these are incredible accomplishments for our state, we will continue to do all we can to support economic growth so Florida can be first in the nation for jobs,” Gov. Scott said in a statement.
In the state, the industries gaining the most jobs in February over the year were professional and business services with 52,200; leisure and hospitality with 42,800; trade, transportation and utilities with 41,500, and education and health services with 39,300.
There were 277,391 job openings in Florida in February, and the state’s 24 local workforce development boards reported that nearly 35,000 Floridians were places in jobs, including more than 1,700 veterans.
Full article via Naples News - http://www.naplesnews.com/business/local/construction-hospitatity-lead-swfl-job-growth-2ee4eba7-7312-2b4e-e053-0100007f694f-373597681.html