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Local jobless numbers head in right direction

BRADENTON — Manatee County’s jobless population just got a little bit smaller.

The county’s unemployment level declined for a second straight month in April when the jobless rate dropped to 11.8 percent from 12.9 percent in March, according to state labor statistics released Friday.

In February, the Manatee’s unemployment rate was 13.3 percent.

Despite the shrinking unemployment rate, the county still has 17,029 people who are out of work, according to the Agency for Workforce Innovation.

Toni Morse is among that population but hopes that may change after interviewing with Hoveround on Friday for an accounts receivable supervisor position.

Because the market is saturated with job seekers, Morse said the past five months of job hunting have been difficult.

“As you enter into a place of possible employment, there’s many other people applying at the same time as you,” Morse said.

Joyce Boyle, director of human resources for Hoveround, interviewed Morse on Friday as she has been interviewing many job candidates this year.

Hoveround has hired 59 employees since January, increasing its staff to 472 workers, Boyle said.

The hires are filling positions workers have left through attrition or other circumstances, she said.

“I will say the influx of resumes has slowed down,” Boyle said. “I was getting in excess of 150 resumes daily.” Now, Boyle estimates she gets 50-60 resumes a day.

Sarasota County, too, saw its unemployment rate decrease. Sarasota’s jobless rate for April was 11.9 percent, down from 12.6 percent in March.

Florida’s seasonally adjust rate for April is 12 percent, a drop of three-tenths of a percentage point from March’s revised rate of 12.3 percent. It was the first monthly decline since February 2006.

Rebecca Rust, state economist for the Agency for Workforce Innovation, said though the declines are positive signs of a recovering economy, it’s not enough to say the economy is stable.

“We do have to keep in mind that we’re at a turning point, but the trends are not yet consistent,” Rust said. “In general, you need to have an increase of perhaps four months in a row to say we’re on a positive trend. It’s still a very positive sign to finally have this drop in the unemployment rate.”

At the Suncoast Workforce Board, spokeswoman Sally Hill said staff is evaluating how successful the Suncoast Career Expo held in April was in terms of connecting the jobless with employment.

An estimated 2,500 job seekers attended the career expo at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center that featured 79 local employers.

“We are tabulating those numbers, but we’re counting on good results,” said Hill, who estimated it would take four-six weeks to determine how many may have been hired because of the expo. “We’re very encouraged by the most recent unemployment rates in April.”

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