In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses the latest report from the U.S. Labor Department regarding the number of Americans filing for first-time jobless claims. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 300,000 for last week. That was the largest decline since December 2012, and marked the lowest level since May 2007.
“It’s good news that fewer people are losing their jobs and applying for jobless benefits. And, so that’s a good indicator that if you have a job, it’s likely that you’ll be able to keep that job because business is picking up,” says Harper, adding that consumers are spending and businesses need people to produce those goods and services.
He says the tougher part of the job market is in the hiring of brand new entrants such as high school, college and university graduates into the job market, due in part to the need for fewer workers in this digital, technology intensive age.
Another indicator of the health of the job market is the number of jobs created, some 192,000 jobs added in March. Harper says that’s a respectable number for job growth. Also, the nation’s unemployment rate remained at 6.7 percent.
In Florida, promoting economic development and creating a successful workforce fall under the umbrella of the Department of Economic Opportunity. DEO Executive Director Jess Panuccio is moving closer to his Senate confirmation, as lawmakers also consider the agency’s proposed budget of $1.2 billion. Harper says the single biggest expenditure for DEO is the state’s workforce agency, now called CareerSource Florida, which administers re-employment assistance. But, Harper says it’s the incentives pot that the governor requests every year. This year the appropriations request for the Office of Strategic Business Development is about $100 million for economic development incentives. Enterprise Florida is the arm of DEO that actually works the deals to bring businesses to the state.
Locally, the University of West Florida is home to the Office of Economic Development and Engagement, which is currently focused on administering the state’s $30 million oil spill recovery fund.
Dr. Rick Harper is Director of the UWF OEDE, and will return to the job full-time after Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session closes on May 2. He’s currently serving as Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the Florida Senate. http://www.uwf.edu/oede/, firstname.lastname@example.org