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Unemployment drops sharply in Palm Beach County

By Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Unemployment dropped sharply in Palm Beach and Broward counties last month, according to Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation’s jobs report for February. The jobless rate fell statewide, as Florida added jobs for the fifth consecutive month.

"The overall unemployment rate is still unacceptably high," said Rebecca Rust, chief economist for the agency. "We do have dire conditions out there. But it clearly has improved."

In Palm Beach County, the jobless rate fell to 11.1 percent in February, compared to 12.0 percent in January and 11.4 percent a year ago. Total out of work: 68,238 in February, down from 73,888 a month earlier.

Broward's rate fell similarly, to 9.7 percent from 10.5 percent in January and 9.9 percent a year earlier. The number of unemployed dropped to 94,601 from 102,664 in January

The declines in Palm Beach and Broward counties are significant not just because of the month-to-month drop, but because of the year-over-year decline. County statistics are not adjusted for seasonal factors, and unemployment typically tends to decline in South Florida as the tourist season progresses. But the year-over-year drop shows the jobs market has improved.

unemployment chart for february 2011

Statewide, the jobless rate dropped to 11.5 percent in February from 11.9 percent a month earlier. A year ago, the statewide rate sat at 11.3 percent.

There were 1.068 million Floridians out of work in February, compared to 1.102 million in January.

Five industry sectors added jobs, including leisure and hospitality, up 15,900; private education and health care, up 23,600 jobs; professional and business services, up 9,800 jobs. The gain in professional and business services is particularly significant because it was driven in part by increased temporary hiring, which is usually a precursor to employers adding permanent jobs.

Five sectors also lost jobs, including construction, down 15,800; finance, down 8,000 and manufacturing, down 5,600.

Meanwhile, the latest forecast from the Economic Estimating Conference is projecting the statewide unemployment rate will be at 11.7 percent by the end of the year, which would represent a slight increase from February's rate.

"This is a forecast you hope will be wrong," Rust said.

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