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Business 2005

More job openings opening all the time

Continued growth brings employment and even some training programs for those who are interested.

By BETH N. GRAY
Published February 13, 2005


As Hernando County's population continued to swell, employment last year not only kept pace, but stepped healthily ahead. And the forecast is for more of the same in 2005, with a couple of caveats.

The labor force in November, the latest month for which statistics were available, numbered 54,217, up from 52,120 last January, an increase of some 2,100, said David Hamilton, contracts administrator for the Pasco-Hernando Jobs and Education Partnership Regional Board.

Over the same period, unemployment in Hernando dropped from 5.2 percent in January to 4.6 percent in November. Unemployment bottomed at 4.5 percent in October.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate is holding at 5.4 percent.

Since 4 percent of the workforce is traditionally considered to be in flux, the numbers are good, officials said.

Counted in the workforce are people 16 and older who are employed or looking for work.

"If somebody is at home, discouraged and not looking for work, they're not considered part of the labor force," Hamilton explained.

Employment locally has increased every year since January 2001, said Hamilton, whose board oversees Career Central, the state employment clearinghouse on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill.

"It's a growing population. There's more business here," he said. And with the number of residents having recently surpassed 150,000, "employment is growing to meet that increased population."

The health care field is begging for skilled workers, from licensed practical nurses to imaging technicians, Hamilton said.

"There are consistent openings there that health care providers are eager to fill," he said.

County and municipal governments, including schools, remain the biggest employers in Hernando.

"Construction is strong," Hamilton added.

Service industry jobs, including retail stores and restaurants, are likewise steady.

"Manufacturing, although it is not growing, is part of the whole picture," he said.

But Mike McHugh, director of the county Office of Business Development, reported a growing tide of manufacturing jobs.

While his office facilitated an expansion last year at PAR Worldwide Group in the Airport Industrial Park, adding 15 jobs, more positions have been assured this year in the manufacturing segment of the local economy.

Top Line Automotive Engineering, building a new facility at the RailPark near the Airport Industrial Park, expects to create 150 new jobs. Universal Microwave Corp. plans to hire 72 workers when it opens its plant in the third quarter at Cortez Crossing, an industrial-commercial park at Interstate 75 and State Road 50.

TG United Labs predicts 60 hires for an expansion at the Airport Industrial Park. Hitek Truss has indicated it will add about 35 jobs when it builds a new facility at Cortez Crossing.

Hamilton said the Jobs and Education Partnership works closely with the business development office, and part of that relationship involves directing job seekers to training.

"We offer a gamut of job training programs," he said.

Listings of training programs are posted at Career Central and on its Web site at www.career-central.org They include administration, advertising, mechanics, drafting, automotive, computer, corrections officer, dental assistant, electronics, emergency medical technician and other listings.

"It's a challenge to the job seeker how to keep skills current," Hamilton said. "That's really important in changing technologies."

While skills for a job remain paramount, the best way to find a job, Hamilton said, is to get an idea of what's available, by visiting Career Central or tapping into its Web site.

"There's also networking," he said. "Employers are turning to their workers and asking, "Do you know somebody?"' he said. "There's also the traditional newspaper ads. There's just no one way to get a job."

Issues in employment in the coming year range from the need for skills to an increase by $1 in the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour on May 2 and employers' concerns about the cost of workers' compensation insurance.

Overall, however, both Hamilton and McHugh said they were optimistic about the job market in Hernando.

[Last modified February 8, 2005, 16:44:07]


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