Construction jobs grow nationally, locally

Unemployment rate continues to drop

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The U.S. job market isn't just growing, it's accelerating.

More jobs were created last month than analysts expected, sending the unemployment rate to a four-year low.

Employers added 236,000 jobs in February and drove down the unemployment rate to 7.7 percent.

The jobs report released Friday pushed the Dow to a new record high. The report also showed big gains in several key industries.

Retail employment is absolutely soaring, adding more than 20,000 jobs in each of the last three months. The health care industry continued to add jobs -- 32,000 in February. Leisure and Hospitality gained 24,000 jobs.

And the housing comeback provided a real shot in the arm for construction jobs -- 48,000 were added last month.

Those numbers translate locally.

The project to add a Panera Bread and Boost Mobil in San Marco is expected to be complete in a few months thanks to construction workers like Miguel Torres, who says he's grateful for the gig.

"Jobs are hard to get and construction is great," Torres said. "I mean, it's a hard job but, it's a good-paying job, actually. It's just sweat, dirt."

Many more are now happily fighting through the sweat and dirt, according to the jobs report.

"We're in an exciting time when the economy truly is gaining power, and I think we're going to have a great year this year and frankly the next several years," Torres said.

The unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since 2008. Locally, those numbers are even better.

"Our unemployment is down about 0.4 of a percent less than the national average," said Jerry Mallot, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. "So our economy is growing, jobs are growing, and we're seeing a lot of new business activity."

The most local job growth is in financial services, information technology, aviation and construction, which is good news for the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

"We've gone for five years without anybody walking through model homes, and now we're starting to see people come back out there and kick tires and figure out if they want to move up because they feel a little bit better about the future," said Daniel Davis, executive director of the association.

As the economy hopefully continues to improve, Mallot said living in the River City is the right spot.

"I think it says a lot about our future," Mallot said. "We've got a combination of a great business environment, great quality of life, and I think the right place to be as our nation grows and recovers."

And thanks to more construction jobs, there will soon be more places for northeast Florida residents to go.

"This is going to be a great place for San Marco, for the people here to enjoy, especially a Panera. It's going to be great, wonderful," Torres said.

Also good news for the River City, last week Forbes Magazine rated Jacksonville second in the nation for technology services job growth.

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