Subtle signs are emerging about the health of Nassau County’s economy — in newspapers, on websites, on buildings.
The signs point toward a strengthening job market, as the county’s unemployment rate has dropped to 3.7 percent. Only 17 counties in Florida have better employment numbers right now than us (according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity).
These signs simply say: “Help Wanted.” And they are as welcomed in an economic sense as wealthy tourists and prosperous companies.
And the job offers are compelling. The WestRock paper mill in downtown Fernandina Beach is advertising for mechanics, as well as for electrical/instrument and manufacturing positions. The positions offer wages from $40,000 to $80,000, attractive benefits such as medical/dental/vision coverage/401(k), and even paid holidays and vacations.
The county government is looking for a road and bridge director, with wages up to $86,000 and full benefits. Quality Health is seeking RNs, LPNs, CNAs and a maintenance tech. And the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department has an opening for a dispatcher/911 operator.
Retail stores, restaurants and hotels are clamoring to fill positions. Target is advertising for cashiers. Bealls is seeking an operations manager. Amelia Hotel at the beach needs a front desk clerk. And if you have experience as a waiter, bartender, cook, etc. you could probably attract several jobs offers at local restaurants and bars.
In addition, the new LignoTech Florida plant in Fernandina Beach will be filling 50 high-wage positions. And the Nassau County Economic Development Board is aggressively pursuing high-quality firms in fields like manufacturing, aerospace and logistics to locate here (especially at the Crawford Diamond industrial site).
The job market is also booming in other parts of North Florida. And it’s the same throughout the state. While Florida’s unemployment rate of 4.3 percent is solid (compared to other states), the Sunshine State is nearly unparalleled in terms of new jobs being created.
In Kiplinger’s ranking of states with the fastest job growth for 2016, Florida placed No. 5. However, the few states ahead of Florida were much smaller in size, so the total number of new jobs there was significantly less than here.
In addition, Florida has had 82 consecutive months of positive job growth. The hottest industries in Florida are professional/business services, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, financial, and construction.
This past month, all but one of the 24 metropolitan regions in Florida experienced job gains. The areas with the largest increases were Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano.
Among the 67 counties in Florida, Monroe has the lowest unemployment rate of 2.7 percent. Neighboring St. Johns County is second at 3.0 percent, with Okaloosa County third at 3.1 percent. Trailing the pack like a winded race horse is Hendry County, with the highest jobless rate of 6.6 percent.
Nassau’s ranking is even more impressive when you consider that many of the top counties have smaller populations. Of counties with at least a 40,000 population, only Alachua, Clay, Leon, Manatee, Orange, Pinellas, Seminole and Walton surpassed Nassau (as did Monroe, St. Johns and Okaloosa).
Nassau County is tied with several other counties in the rankings, but this does not diminish its impressive employment environment. Nassau’s jobless rate has even declined from 4.2 percent a year ago.
So, in summary, Nassau County’s economy is vibrant. And healthy as a world-class fitness instructor.