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Updated: 10/18/2013 02:16:26PM

Jobless rate here better, but still above US average

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Highlands County’s unemployment numbers have been going down steadily since 2010. That’s the good news. But, at 9 percent in July, it’s still higher than the Florida average of 7.4 percent or the national average of 7.7 percent.

Donna Doubleday, executive director of the Heartland Workforce Investment Board, says a new report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this week listed a national average of 7.3 percent unemployment. Gender and race do not factor into the numbers among major worker groups.

The report also said that the number of persons jobless for 27 weeks or more was also unchanged at 4.3 million nationally. Those make up 37.9 percent of those unemployed.

The most recent numbers show an unemployment rate of 9 percent in Highlands County; 9.4 percent in Hardee County and 8.8 percent in DeSoto County.

Highlands has had a downward trend from 13.1 percent in July 2010, Doubleday said. The rate fell to 12.3 percent in July 2011 and 10 percent in July 2012. That’s good news for the employment picture close to home. And the immediate future might look bright, too.

Traditionally, there is a drop in available jobs during the summer months because winter residents have returned to their northern homes, schools are not in session and migrant farm workers are only now beginning to trickle back into the Heartland.

An increase in jobs could be right around the corner. The return of our winter guests will bring more available employment and longer store hours. The annual influx of winter residents usually starts by the end of September and is in full swing by the end of October and early in November.

Doubleday said she hopes to see more jobs develop in the coming weeks and months, but it’s up to the private sector to create jobs. And that depends on the principles of supply and demand. When demand for goods and services goes up, the number of employees needed also goes up.

Those looking for jobs will have an opportunity Thursday during a Heartland Workforce job fair starting at 10 a.m. at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center in Sebring. The first hour is for military veterans only. From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. the job fair is open to the public.