PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – Career Service Gulf Coast officials said the unemployment rate in Florida hit 2.5 percent, which is below the national average. However, the agency said they have seen success in Bay County.

There may have never been a better time to look for a job in America. On Friday, Career Service Gulf Coast held a luncheon highlighting their successes and challenges.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that we’ve had a little bit of a labor shortage,” said Career Service Gulf Coast Director Kim Bodine. “So, we’re doing our best to work with every aspect of the potential labor force to get them into jobs, to help them get the skills that they need.”

Career Source Gulf Coast said Florida employment numbers are the lowest they have ever been. In September, the unemployment rate hit 2.5 percent while the national average was at 3.5 percent.

This is a massive turnaround after the record high of 13.5 percent unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“Our labor force is still growing,” said Career Source Gulf Coast Communication Manager Becky Samarripa. “It’s at its highest since even before Hurricane Michael. So, we have a lot of people engaged with the workforce here, which means that there could be some tight demand for employees right now.”

Career Service Gulf Coast Chairman Elinor Simmons said the closure of Westrock Paper Mill created problems as 425 employees were laid off.

“They had an income, which they also gave service to businesses,” said Simmons. “So, when they lost their job, it was a residual effect. So many lost careers and Career Service was right there on the spot.”

However, Career Service Gulf Coast said right now, Bay County has a demand for employees and the labor force is growing.

“Our area is unique. You know, we have an almost year-round tourism industry. So, leisure and hospitality is a very hot industry,” said Samarrripa. “Construction continues to grow. We grew at the fastest rate than any other metropolitan area in the state in the month of September so, we still have a lot of positive job growth and opportunities, ample opportunities right here in this area.”

Career Service Gulf Coast said they can help anyone looking for a better job.

If you would like more information about the services and programs, they provide visit careersource.com.