Workforce faces double digit unemployment

Historic City News has learned that nearly half of Florida’s 67 counties – 33 of them – now have double-digit unemployment.

Flagler County, our smaller neighbor to the south, has the highest jobless rate in Florida at 14.4 percent.

Flagler County’s economy was heavily reliant on home building and had been one of the fastest growing counties in the state over the last decade. That boom is now a bust. Flagler County was also victimized by some manufacturing layoffs.

Large layoffs are expected through the year – and the cuts are now rippling beyond the housing market, which hasn’t seen any new building of note for a while.

While the housing bust was originally the big unemployment driver, the pain is now starting to be felt in other industries as well. Still, those tied to housing, development and mortgages are among those facing the toughest time.

Many residents live here in St. Johns County but work in Duval County, our larger neighbor to the north. Just today, Wachovia announced that more than 130 Jacksonville-based employees will be laid off in late July or early August.

Wachovia is being absorbed by Wells Fargo & Co, and the layoffs will be in Wachovia’s mortgage division.

Unemployment reports for Florida topped 10 percent last month, hitting the highest level in nearly 34 years and dampening hopes that a recovery from the recession is just around the corner.

“We’re going to experience double-digit pain not just for a few months, but through the middle of 2011,” said University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith.

The industries reporting the biggest declines are those shedding the biggest share of the workforce: construction – with wages down 5.75 percent – finance and insurance, off 4.4 percent, and manufacturing, down 3.7 percent.

The only Florida industries with rising wages were fishing and forestry (up 2.3 percent), utilities (up 3 percent) and transportation (.8 percent).

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