Unemployment Rate Drops in April

Unemployment Rate Drops in AprilBy Linda Kleindienst

   Florida’s unemployment rate inched down in April, buoying some hopes that the state may be seeing a sign of a turnaround in the economy.

   Still, the new figure — 9.6 percent — represents 885,000 jobless out of a labor force of 9,239,000.

   The unemployment rate is 0.2 percentage point lower than the revised March rate of 9.8 percent and is up 4.0 percentage points from the April 2008 rate.  The state’s current unemployment rate is 0.7 percentage points higher than the national rate of 8.9 percent.

   Still, Gov. Charlie Crist voiced hopes that Florida’s troubled economy, which has led to billions of dollars in state budget cuts, could be seeing some light at the end of the financial crisis tunnel.

   “I am pleased to see that the unemployment rate for the Sunshine State is changing direction – going down, instead of up.  While we don’t know if this lower rate is a significant sign of a turnaround in our economy, it is certainly good news for the people of Florida, especially those who are struggling during this challenging time,” Crist said on learning the news Friday.

   The March revised unemployment rate of 9.8 percent was the highest rate recorded under the current methodology since 1976.     When comparing all time periods, the highest unemployment rate was 10 percent in December 1975.

   The jobless rate began climbing in April 2007. It began in construction but now covers all industries.

   The state has used $1.4 billion of the economic stimulus money it has received from the federal government to help out workers who have lost their jobs.

   According to the Washington, D.C. – based Economic Policy Institute, each dollar in unemployment compensation benefits paid by the state results in an estimated $1.64 in positive economic benefits to residents and businesses, which helps to sustain jobs and restore consumer confidence.

   So far, nearly 569,000 Floridians have benefitted from an additional $25 weekly in unemployment compensation because of the federal aid.