MANATEE -- The Suncoast region's unemployment held steady in February, showing some stability in the workforce for now.
Combined, the Bradenton-North Port-Sarasota metro area unemployment averaged 6.1 percent in February, holding steady from January and a 1.4 percentage point improvement from the 7.5 percent in February 2013, according to jobs numbers released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Development.Manatee County's unemployment checked in at 6.1 percent for February, showing a slight improvement from a year ago.
The latest jobs numbers released show that Manatee County's unemployment dropped 1.4 percentage points from a year ago, but increased 0.2 percentage points from January. The February numbers are not seasonally adjusted for Manatee County. The county's workforce also increased to 148,801 in February, up 1,327 people from 147,474 in January.
Of all industries, construction was one of the bright spots locally. The 1,000 jobs added to construction locally represented a 6.3 percent growth from the previous month for the Bradenton-Sarasota market, said Sally Hill, spokeswoman for CareerSource Suncoast, the region's jobs agency.
Retail job growth is showing promise, with 1,900 jobs gained, or a 5 percent increase, Hill added. That sector is expected to grow thanks to the Mall at University Town Center, set to open Oct. 16 on the corner of Cattlemen Road and University Parkway.
CareerSource's business services department is working with the mall's management company Taubman Centers on how to organize hiring for all the stores and anticipated positions like maintenance and security.
"We're working with the property owner at the Uni
versity Town Center, and they're planning that the stores they're bringing in there will create about 2,000 jobs," Hill said.
Sarasota County's unemployment showed that 6 percent of the workforce was jobless in February, down from 7.5 percent from February 2013, and 0.2 percentage points below the 6.2 percent in January.
Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment for February stood at 6.2 percent, down 1.7 percentage points from last February's 7.9 percent. The national unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in February.
Compared to a year ago, the number of jobs in the state grew 211,500, up 2.8 percent, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Gov. Rick Scott celebrated the jobs news during a stop at Titan Metal Service at Port Tampa Bay Friday morning. The owners, Chris Bush and Matt Rossi, received the governor's Business Ambassador Award, which was awarded to University Park's Randy Benderson and his family last year for creating jobs in the state.
"February was the single biggest month for private sector job creation since I took office with the addition of 33,400 jobs for Florida families," Scott said. "Since December 2010, Florida has added more than 540,000 private sector jobs. Our goal is to create an opportunity economy in Florida where businesses can create jobs for generations to come, and I applaud Titan Metal Service for their efforts to make this goal a reality."
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.