Unemployment

Citrus County’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in July, down from 6.1 percent the same month a year ago, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity reported on Friday. The July rate was a slight increase in Citrus County compared to June’s 5.6 percent rate this year.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July was 3.7 percent, down 0.4 percentage points from July 2017 and down a 0.1 percentage point from June 2017. There were 380,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 10,246,000, according to the state report. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in July.

Meanwhile, Citrus County’s labor pool shrank in July compared to June 2018, decreasing from 48,526 people to 47,515. Of those, 47,515 people in July, 44,802 were employed. In July 2017, there were 44,602 people working out of a labor pool of 47,495 people.

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Bruce Register, Citrus County's economic development director, said that the solution to the county's struggling unemployment problem is moving away from an economy based so heavily on tourism, being a retirement destination for seniors and latent agriculture.

If we continue on our current path with those economic focuses, we can expect more of the same unemployment in the near future, he said.

"We're taking the steps to build an economy and to diversify our economy," Register said.

To help do that, the county is putting together plans and working now aggressively to try and attract businesses here and explain to them what we have to offer, such as people wanting to work and access to highways to move goods and services, he said.

"This is not rocket science," he said. "It's just putting forth the effort. That way we can be successful."     

In 2010, the annual unemployment rate in Citrus County reached a high of 13.7 percent during the Great Recession.

In July 2018, Okaloosa and St. Johns counties had the state’s lowest unemployment rate with 3.0 percent each. That was followed by Walton County with 3.1 percent, and Monroe County with 3.2 percent.

Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate with 8.7 percent, followed by Hardee County with 6.8 percent, and Highlands County with 5.8 percent.

Unemployment in neighboring counties reflected similar trends when compared to a year ago. Hernando County’s July 2018 unemployment was 4.9 percent, down from July 2017′s rate of 5.3 percent.

Levy County’s July 2018 unemployment rate was 4.3 percent compared with 4.6 percent in July 2017.

In Sumter County, the unemployment rate for July 2018 was 5.6 percent, down from 6.3 percent the same month a year ago. It was 5.7 percent in June 2018.

Statewide, the industry gaining the most jobs over the past 12 months was leisure and hospitality. That number increased by 50,400, or 4.2 percent.

Other industries gaining jobs over the year included construction with 38,200 more jobs, or jobs 7.5 percent; education and health services, with 33,700 jobs or 2.6 percent; professional and business services with 28,500 more jobs or 2.1 percent; trade, transportation, and utilities with 21,700 jobs or  1.2 percent; financial activities  with 16,300 more jobs, or 2.9 percent; manufacturing  with 15,000 jobs or 4.1 percent; and other services with 8,700 more jobs,  or 2.5 percent.

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com and 352-397-5914.