Job Numbers Show Positive Economic Signs

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The latest jobless figures show more people are working in the panhandle. Experts attribute a lot of the increase to seasonal jobs, but there could be hope for job seekers on the horizon.

February's numbers show Bay County dropping to 7.7% unemployment, a significant improvement from January's 8.9% rate.

"Anytime you go over a half a percent, I'd say that's fairly significant," said Maria Goodwin of the Gulf Coast Workforce Center.

A lot of those new jobs are most likely temporary spring break hires.

"That's a trend that we see in our area year after year," said Goodwin.

While seasonal employment may have an influence on job numbers early in the year, local officials say they're noticing signs that the construction business may be making a comeback.

"The fact that we're seeing some construction related jobs and some jobs in manufacturing, I think that is a sign of our economic situation improving," said Goodwin.

Rick Koehnemann of Koehnemann Construction in Panama City says he's seeing more interest in local building.

"It seems like most of the activity is in the beach area. Tourism has been up and there's a lot of people interested in second home and retirement," said Koehnemann.

Builders say they're doing more high-end renovations or building new homes for people who've owned their lots for the past few years.

"The housing industry, nationally and locally, has been on life support for the last four or five years so any uptake is very well received," said Koehnemann.

"In February, we saw more jobs posted here at the Workforce Center, more jobs than we've seen in five years," said Goodwin.

She says March should show new job gains as well.

Goodwin says the tourism industry is already hiring for the summer season.

The state unemployment rate dropped to 7.7%, it's lowest level in more than 4 years.

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