The First Coast’s jobless figure along with Florida’s unemployment rate dropped sharply in March, according to state figures released Friday.
The First Coast unemployment figure for March came in at 4.1 percent, down from the February rate of 4.6 percent before seasonal adjustments. That trend was reflected on the state level that saw Florida’s jobless rate fall on a more modest level from 4.7 percent in February to 4.3 percent in March. The national unemployment rate also dipped from 4.9 percent in February to 4.6 percent in March.
More importantly, the First Coast figure — which includes Duval, St. Johns, Nassau, Clay and Baker counties — was down from the March, 2016 figure which was 4.6 percent.
“The job market was excellent in the Jacksonville area in March,” said Albert Loh, professor of economics and chairman of the Department of Economics and Geography at the University of North Florida Coggin College of Business. “Jobs were created faster than the growth in workforce, resulting in a significant decline in unemployment rate.”
The upbeat jobs figures for February and March come after an unusually harsh January when the unemployment figure spiked on the First Coast and in Florida.
Loh said the March economic picture usually brings an upswing in hiring. But this year’s figure was more robust than expected.
“While improvement in the unemployment rate is expected in March, such a strong growth in March seems a bit surprising, especially after an already outperforming February,” Loh said.
Gov. Rick Scott was heralding the figures, which represented the second month of consecutive drops in the unemployment rate.
“Our unrelenting focus on cutting taxes, reducing regulations and supporting proven economic development programs are helping create new opportunities across our state, including in the Jacksonville area,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “It is great news that nearly 24,000 new jobs have been created for families in Northeast Florida over the past year.”
After seasonal adjustments, which include taking into account factors specific to this time of year, Florida’s unemployment rate settled at 4.8 percent in March, which is still a drop from the February figure of 5 percent. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted jobless figure was 4.75percent in March, down from the 4.7 percent jobless figure in February.
On the First Coast, the seasonally adjusted unemployment figure went from 4.56 percent in February to 4.2 percent in March.
But the Jacksonville areas saw the most job growth in the past year in professional and business services with 6,100 new jobs created in those industries. Education and health service also saw a notable increase in new jobs over the past year with 5,600 new positions created.
While most job sectors saw significant growth, Loh said there was a drop off in hiring in the leisure and hospitality industries on the First Coast.