POINCIANA – As a local economic development agency gears up for a major job fair, the much-beleaguered Florida economy got some good news on Friday, with the report out of Tallahassee that the Sunshine State’s unemployment rate was continuing to trend downward.
On Friday, the office of Gov. Rick Scott reported that Florida’s unemployment rate had fallen to 8.7 percent in April, down from 9 percent in March and the lowest rate this state has experienced since January 2009.
Gov. Scott hailed the report, noting that more than 200,000 jobs were now being advertised in the state through online job search sites.
“With 243,594 Florida job openings listed by various help-wanted websites, we are seeing positive trends of job creation by companies and employers throughout our state,’’ said Scott, who took office in January 2011 on a pledge to revive Florida’s ailing economy.
The trend all year long, the governor said, has been in the right direction.
”Florida’s jobless rate moved to its lowest point in more than three years, and is a clear sign we are moving Florida in a direction that gives businesses and job creators the confidence they need to grow and expand,’’ Scott said. ”I look forward to continuing to implement my job creation and economic development agenda to further grow Florida’s economy.”
Florida has been one of the nation’s hardest hit states economically, in part because of the collapse of the housing market. The state rode a residential and commercial construction boom in the past decade, as a seemingly insatiable desire for housing left developers scrambling to build new subdivisions in areas once vacant save for citrus groves.
Central Florida was a definite part of that trend. In the past decade, Osceola County was one of the fastest growing counties — not just in Florida, but across the entire nation. Typical of that growth was the community of Poinciana, where 10 villages cut across Osceola and Polk counties, and where new homes were getting built every 90 days at the height of the housing market boom between 2004 and 2007. Poinciana’s population soared from 20,000 in the 1980s to more than 84,000 today, in part because of that building boom.
But when the housing market collapsed, the unemployment rate in Florida – and in both Osceola and Polk counties – soared into double-digits, above 11 percent in Osceola and 12 percent in Polk. The entire region got saddled with a painfully high number of foreclosed homes, and an inventory of unsold houses that were newly built, but too expensively priced to sell.
Even today, Florida’s unemployment rate remains above the national average of 8.1 percent.
On the other hand, in the past year, Florida had added 52,600 new jobs since April 2011, and the 243,000 jobs posted online in the state last month was an increase of 7,000 from March 2012, the state government noted.
In his weekly radio address on Friday, May 18, Scott said he hoped to find even more economic opportunity for the state through international means, starting with an upcoming trip to Spain.
”Next week, I will be leading a business development mission to Spain,’’ the governor said. ”Along with a delegation of more than 60 Florida business leaders and economic development professionals, I will work to strengthen economic ties between Florida and Spain. The goal of our mission is twofold. First, we will promote the 500th anniversary celebration of Spanish presence in Florida, and further cement our cultural ties. Next, I will promote Florida as the ideal location for Spanish companies to do business.’’
Although Europe remains mired in a serious debt crisis, the governor noted that ”Spain has been one of the fastest growing foreign investors in Florida in recent years. Well over 300 Spanish companies maintain operations in our state. Spain is also an important source of tourism to Florida. While in Spain, I will promote Florida as the world’s Number one tourist destination. By developing and maintaining relationships with key economic partners, we can ensure that Florida’s economy continues to grow.’’
The Poinciana Economic Development Alliance has a job fair scheduled for June 9.
Locally, there will be two upcoming job fairs in Poinciana.
The first is on Friday, May 25, when the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate will be holding a job fair at the Poinciana Community Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with immediate openings for a variety of hourly positions, including cooks, kitchen stewards, restaurant hosts, servers, front office supervisors, golf cart attendants, housekeepers, linen runners, and purchasing assistants.
”They’re having a hard time filling those jobs,” said Wendy Farrell, a member of a business development agency based in Poinciana that’s scheduled a second job fair next month to help match unemployed local residents with those employers who are looking to hire.
The Poinciana Economic Development Alliance has a job fair scheduled for Saturday, June 9 at Liberty High School cafeteria. The school is at 4250 Pleasant hill Road in Poinciana, and the job fair runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Businesses expected to attend the event looking to hire new workers include construction-related firms like Robins & Morton – the subcontractors building the Poinciana Medical Center, the community’s first hospital – and non-construction participants like the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Toho Water Authority, and the Omni Resort at ChampionsGate.
Joanna Conley, the chief operating officer for Poinciana Medical Center, said local residents could also log on to their new Web site, www.PoincianaMedicalCenter.com, to learn about upcoming jobs. The hospital will be hiring roughly 200 people when it opens next summer.
”On this web site, you’ll find information on employment, once we are at the point of accepting applications,” she said.
In the meantime, the construction firm building the hospital, Robins & Morton, will be hiring at the June 9 event.
”Please help us get the word out about our job fair coming up in June,” said Nick Murdock, the chairman of PEDA. ”We do have jobs now available at the June 9 job fair.”