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Hiring is getting tough in Florida

The state's jobless rate is low compared with other states. That's a challenge for businesses.

Published September 16, 2006

The state's unemployment rate remained among the lowest in the country in August.

The jobless rate remained unchanged from July, at 3.3 percent, the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation said Friday. It's down slightly from a year ago, when it was 3.6 percent.

Translation? Fewer people are looking for work, and more employers are looking to hire. That means some companies are scrambling to find good help.

"Three-tenths of a percent doesn't sound like a lot, but it makes a huge difference," said Lee Rachelson, president of TempWise, a Tampa staffing agency.

"We are having to be very creative in our recruiting," she said. "I've been in this business since 1989, and this is the most difficult I've seen it."

Rachelson said she has to assign two or three people to scour the Internet for resumes. She used to need just one person for that job. And she still has 50 or 60 orders waiting to be filled.

Jennie Blackburn of Titan Staffing in Clearwater said she has learned that she has to act quickly to snap up good candidates when the job market is so robust. "Those are what I call Short Shelf Life," she said. "I call my regular clients and I say 'SSL, SSL.' "

Titan has started letting applicants go online to take some of its tests - for typing, grammar, Microsoft applications - before they come in for an interview. It speeds up the application process, Blackburn said.

When the unemployment rate drops, even by a few tenths of a percentage point, Blackburn said, she starts getting calls from companies that have never used Titan. "Really desperate calls," she said. "When it the unemployment rate changes even a fraction, I can tell."

Florida's jobless rate has been below the national average since mid 2002.

For August, the national unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, or 1.4 percentage points higher than Florida's.

The state keeps churning out new jobs, creating about 243,000 in 12 months; about 27,600 of them have been in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area.

For job-seeking Floridians, the world probably isn't at their feet, but that state is close. Chris Ciulla, a Tampa-based vice president of the Robert Half International staffing firm, said times are such that employers must now sell themselves to potential employees during interviews.

Rachelson said that companies are also realizing that they have to offer perks like flexible hours or higher salaries. "A year ago we would find a receptionist job and it might be $10 an hour," she said. "Now it's an $11 or maybe even a $12 an hour receptionist."

She has been hearing lately from a lot of companies that handle foreclosures. "They are getting busier and busier all the time," she said. "We've been starting one or two people (with those companies) every week."

Christina Rexrode can be reached at or (727) 893-8318.

[Last modified September 15, 2006, 22:44:37]

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