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Good news - and bad

July 30, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Due, in part, to off-season employment declines, Lee County's jobless rate bumped back up in June.

An estimated 11.6 percent of the county's workforce was unemployed last month with July predicted to be no better.

The country may be in recovery, but the economy is still struggling here in Southwest Florida.

The public sector is not exempt from this harsh reality, something local governments are addressing.

Like the national versus local economic picture, there's both good news and bad here, depending on perspective.

The good news, for taxpayers, is local officials are holding the line on the property tax rate with both the city of Cape Coral and the School District of Lee County actually eyeing some slight declines. To do this, governments are becoming leaner.

The bad news, for job hunters anyway, is that the public sector, usually the most stable in terms of the employment picture, is contributing to the unemployment rate by also shedding jobs by the hundreds.

According to Southwest Florida Works, the greatest number of jobs lost in Lee County between May and June - 2,700 - were government sector jobs.

And with the budget cycle in full swing, more will be lost, either through attrition - governments not filling vacancies - or through actual position cuts.

In Cape Coral, alone, for example, the proposed budget calls for the elimination of another 92 "full-time equivalents." The vast majority of these positions are vacant although some contract positions are among the proposed cuts.

All told, that's another 5.8 percent reduction in force proposed before City Manager Gary King even looks at council's decision to pare the millage rate down by .1 mill, or another $1.66 million.

Tight government - and tight governance - is not a bad thing.

But job recovery is the path to recovery - and it's not happening, at least not here.

Recovery may well be on its way. But it's still got a ways to go before we see a much-brighter picture for Lee County.

- Breeze editorial



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