Ocala MSA Leads the State in Job Growth

Posted on: March 17, 2015

OCALA, Fla. (March 17, 2015) – As anticipated, the region’s jobless rate in January rose slightly over the month, by 0.6 percentage point, reflecting the decline in holiday hiring. Not as expected is the Ocala metropolitan statistical area’s return as state metro leader in job growth at 5.5 percent, topping the state’s rate of 3.7 percent.

The Citrus, Levy and Marion counties’ regional unemployment rate is down 1.0 percent over the year. Out of a labor force of 198,136, there were 14,208 unemployed, or 1,759 fewer than last year. In January, Levy County continued to post the lowest rate in the region at 6.7 percent, followed again by Marion County with 6.9 percent and Citrus County at 8.1 percent. The not-seasonally adjusted rate for Florida is 5.8 percent and the nation is 6.1 percent.

The employment summary, released for the first time in two months by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) following its annual benchmarking, shows that 66 of Florida’s 67 counties experienced increases in unemployment rates over the month due to seasonality. Over the year, DEO reports that jobless rates fell in each county.

The Ocala MSA’s nonfarm employment in January is 97,900, up 5,100 jobs since January 2014. The metro area had led the state in job growth throughout much of 2013 with DEO reporting gains of 2.8 to 3.6 percent and growth of 2,600-to-3,300 jobs. In August 2013, Forbes magazine cited Moody’s Analytics survey of fastest growing metropolitan areas, which named the Ocala MSA as fifth in the nation for projected job growth through 2015.
However, following last year’s benchmarking, DEO reported that job growth for the Ocala metro was actually much slower, at 0.9 percent over the year, than previously reported. Throughout  2014, the Ocala MSA was cited with the lowest, sometimes negative, job growth among Florida’s metros.

Rusty Skinner, chief executive officer for CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, said he welcomes the latest adjustment, which is designed to provide a more precise record of unemployment and job growth. The annual benchmarking reflects historical data for the Ocala MSA revised back to 2013.
“This feels much more real to us. Last year we were a bit surprised to learn our growth had essentially been reversed when the numbers and trends we tracked told a different story,” he said. “We were eager to see where we landed with today’s report.”

Where the Ocala MSA landed was on much more solid ground. In addition to leading the state with the highest total job growth rate, it also led in education and health services, which added 3,600 jobs over the year for a growth rate of 25.4 percent compared to the state rate of 4.2 percent.

In terms of the over-the-month jump in unemployment, Skinner said the numbers are “very seasonal” and something experienced by other areas. “The increase is due to the decline in in the holiday season; it is routine and happens every year at this time.”

Skinner said that what is important in terms of gauging the economic recovery for the region is that over the year all three counties posted gains in the size of the labor force and number of employed while those without jobs continues to fall.

Release of preliminary employment data for each county shows that:

-  Citrus County's labor force shrank by 184 to 48,206 over month, the number of employed fell by 133 to 44,278 and the number of those without jobs rose by 317 to 3,928. The unemployment rate in January 2014 was 9.2 percent when there were 4,431 unemployed.

-  Levy County's labor force decreased by nine to 16,203, the number of employed dropped by 119 to 15,125 and the number of unemployed decreased by 110 to 1,078. Over the year, the number of jobless has fallen by 167 compared to when the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent.

- Marion County's labor force grew by 657 to 133,727, the number of employed decreased by 85 to 124,525, while those without jobs rose by 742 to 9,202. Compared to January 2013 when the unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, there were 1,094 fewer jobless and 5,197 more employed.

In addition to education and health services, the Ocala MSA experience nonfarm job growth in seven major industries over the year: trade, transportation and utilities (+1,400 jobs for a 6.5 percent growth rate; leisure and hospitality (+800 jobs for a 7.6 percent growth rate); professional and business services (+700 jobs for a 7.6 percent growth rate); manufacturing (+400 jobs for a 5.7 growth rate); other services (+200 for a 6.9 percent growth rate); and mining, logging and construction (+100 jobs for a 1.6 percent growth rate).

Employment in financial services and information was unchanged over the year. The only industry losing jobs was government, which dropped 12.7 percent or 2,100 jobs.
New with this latest release is information about the Homosassa Springs metro area (Citrus County) which had nonfarm employment of 32,300 in January, up 1,000 jobs (+3.2 percent) over the year. The employment report for February will be released on Friday, March 27.


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