By Anthony Clark | The Gainesville Sun
Unemployment rates ended the year with improvements at the local, state and national levels in December, with Florida's dipping below double digits for the first time since April 2009.
The Gainesville Metropolitan Statistical Area — Alachua and Gilchrist counties — saw its jobless rate drop to 7.7 percent in December from 7.9 percent in November and 8.5 percent in December 2010, the state Department of Economic Opportunity reported.
Florida's rate dipped to 9.9 percent from 10.0 percent in November and 12.0 percent a year prior while the U.S. rate was 8.5 percent, down from 8.7 percent in November and 9.4 percent in December 2010.
While the improved rates at the state and national levels reflected job growth, Gainesville's drop was more a function of a shrinking labor force, which can indicate discouraged job seekers who have stopped looking for work, relocated or gone back to school.
The number of people with jobs in Gainesville dropped from 128,444 in November to 126,858, while the number of unemployed also dropped, from 11,031 to 10,569, according to household surveys.
A separate employer survey used to measure job growth showed Gainesville lost an estimated 1,000 jobs over the year, a loss of 0.8 percent. The most losses were in private education and health services, down 400 jobs, followed by government, professional and business services, financial activities, construction and information.
Those losses were partially offset by gains in leisure and hospitality with 400 jobs; transportation, warehousing and utilities with 200 and retail trade with 100.
Gainesville's 7.7 percent jobless rate was still the second lowest in the state, behind 7.1 percent for the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin MSA.
Florida added 114,600 jobs over the year for a 1.6 percent growth rate — the strongest since January 2007 and more than the 1.3 percent U.S. growth rate. The state added 7,300 jobs from November to December.
Florida's job gains were reported in clothing and accessory stores, food services and drinking places, ambulatory health care services, management and technical consulting services, real estate, fabricated metal product manufacturing, and personal and laundry services. Areas losing jobs were state government, telecommunications, and building construction.