MANATEE -- Like every other Florida county, Manatee County showed a jump in its unemployment rate from May to June, according to the state’s Agency for Workforce Innovation.
But almost all of the increase can be attributed to a seasonal drop in agricultural and education workers that occurs every year, said chief economist Rebecca Rust.
Manatee’s rate increased to 11 percent in June from 10.3 percent in May, according to the agency’s most recent report. Likewise, the overall state’s unemployment rate, unadjusted for seasonal fluctuations, grew from 10.5 percent in May to 11.1 percent in June.
Once annual cycles in agriculture and education are taken into account, the state’s unemployment rate showed no change from May to June, holding steady at 10.6 percent.
While the agency does not provide seasonally adjusted rates for individual counties, it does provide them for metropolitan areas. And traditionally, seasonally adjusted rates this time of year for the North Port/Sarasota/Bradenton metropolitan area run .6 to .8 points lower than the unadjusted rate, according to the agency.
The reasons for the fluctuation are that fewer crops are grown in Florida during the hot summer months, and non-instructional workers in classrooms, such as janitors and food service workers, are not part of the workforce over the summer.
From a nationwide perspective, Florida’s unemployment rate remains the fourth-highest in the country, topped only by Nevada, California and Rhode Island. Florida’s rate is 1.4 percentage points higher than the national rate of 9.2 percent.
Rust and other jobs analysts said the more relevant story is how unemployment rates have improved from a year ago, when Florida’s was 11.4 percent and Manatee County’s was 11.8 percent.
“That’s encouraging,” said Sally Hill, spokesperson for Suncoast Workforce, the local arm of the state’s job creation agency.
“It’s just difficult to sense that things are improving because our recovery is slow. It seems to be just one job at a time.”
Rust also said Florida’s manufacturing industry is showing an increase in jobs for the first time since 2006.
Some of Manatee County’s private staffing firms say they’re not at all concerned about this month’s increased unemployment numbers.
“I don’t find that alarming during this time of year,” said Julianne Sunseri, co-owner of Ad-VANCE Talent Solutions, Inc. “There always seems to be a lull this time of year. It’s kind of a breathing time. But once we get into the end of July and August, we’ll have clients starting to ramp up for hiring.”
At HH Staffing, hiring this June was about the same as hiring last June, said Karen Rehn, chief executive officer.
The company’s revenue, which is based on job placements, dropped this year about 25 percent, and last year about 20 percent. By contrast, Rehn said, HH Staffing’s revenue dropped 40 percent from May to June in 2009.
“The real good news is that we’re up 250 percent from 2009 in each month so far this year, Rehn said. “And there are certain market sectors where we’re starting to see more hiring, and more grumbles of potential hiring.”
Overall, Rehn said, skilled positions including light industrial, office and maintenance are showing small increases. Employer demands seem to be decreasing for unskilled general labor, she said.
Both Sunseri and Rehn said the more significant trends they are noticing have to do with employees, rather than employers. Rehn, who opened a branch in Clearwater last year, said she’s seen a higher quality of worker there than in Manatee County.
“We’re seeing better skill sets, better work histories and cleaner backgrounds there,” she said. “We see a lot more job-jumpers in Manatee County, a lot more people with criminal backgrounds and we just can’t use them.”
Sunseri has noticed a trend of unemployed workers shying away from possible short-term positions because they don’t want to lose their unemployment benefits.
“They’re just so afraid,” she said. “The economy is just too scary, and there are too many unknowns. I can appreciate that situation, but I do encourage people to get out there and work because you never know; one of these seasonal positions may turn into a definite hire.”
Christine Hawes, Herald business writer, can be reached at (941) 745-7081.