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Job hunting? Nearly 6,000 positions up for grabs in Central Florida Read more: Job hunting? Nearly

Jason Duprat studied hard to get his bachelor’s degree in nursing while working part-time as a patient tech at Florida Hospital Orlando.


When the 27-year-old former restaurant manager graduated from the University of Central Florida in August 2009, he still found a number of job openings, despite one of the worst recessions in U.S. history.

Duprat turned down jobs in his home state of New York to take a job in the emergency room at Florida Hospital and do an intensive 16-week critical care training program.

“It was tough, but it was definitely worth it,” Duprat said of his career transition to nursing. “It’s challenging because there’s always more to learn — and it‘s definitely rewarding.” Duprat already had a bachelor’s degree in hotel and retail management from Rochester Institute of Technology and had worked as a restaurant manager, but wanted a job with more regular hours and benefits.

Duprat is one of the lucky ones, as Central Florida’s unemployment rate was 11.4 percent in June, creeping up from May’s 11.1 percent and 10.9 percent unemployed in June 2009, according to Workforce Central Florida.

But some sectors — like health care — are still hiring. In fact, an informal survey by Orlando Business Journal found there are nearly 6,000 unfilled jobs in a variety of industries in Central Florida.

Among the Central Florida companies hiring: Convergys Corp., Sprint, Fidelity Information Services Inc. and several new hotels. In addition, Legoland, which is opening in fall 2011, also will add about 1,000 jobs within 12 months.

Not surprisingly, industries among the fastest-growing several years ago still are struggling to add workers. For instance, construction — the industry hardest hit — was down by 28,000 jobs from June 2009 to June 2010. Other industries shedding jobs included finance, manufacturing, telecommunications, publishing, and leisure and hospitality, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.

Meanwhile, the top industries gaining jobs from June 2009 to June 2010 included education and health services, which gained 29,600 jobs, and government, which added 19,800 jobs, according to the Agency for Workforce Innovation. Other growth areas included professional and business services, wholesale and retail trade, transportation, and utilities and other services.

Even with the increased jobs in some sectors, Workforce Central Florida President Gary Earl still predicts a slow recovery in the Sunshine State. He said Central Florida likely won’t see a 6 percent unemployment rate again until 2015 or 2018.

“We’re not seeing anything new and different yet,” Earl said. “We hit the bottom, but haven’t started climbing up the cliff yet.”

Orlando has lost more than 100,000 jobs during the recession, about 10 percent of its total, said Rollins College economist Bill Seyfried. Construction saw a 50 percent decline, or about 45,000 jobs lost. Trade, transportation and public utilities shed 30,000 jobs, professional and business services saw a loss of 20,000 jobs, and leisure and hospitality also lost about 10,000 jobs. The two sectors least affected were education and health services — which went from adding about 4,000 to 5,000 jobs a year to adding 1,000 to 2,000 per year — and government, which had been adding 3,000 to 4,000 annually and is now flat.

However, he said, “Overall, it appears that the local job market is stabilizing and experiencing a slight improvement.”

Even so, competition for positions remains fierce. Orlando was ranked 41st in July among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas for the number of job seekers for each available position, said, a job-listings website. It found four would-be workers for every opening, compared with six workers for every one job opening in August 2009.

Meanwhile, jobs in midlevel administrative positions seem to be bouncing back, said Nicole McMurray, branch manager for AppleOne Employment Services/Act1 Group in Altamonte Springs.

“I think Orlando is starting to get that breath of life again,” McMurray said.

AppleOne Employment Services/Act1 Group has seen a 259 percent increase in direct hiring in the first six months of 2010 compared to 2009, meaning companies are paying the firm to find a worker, which they hire permanently. About half of those jobs were midlevel administrative positions.

Additionally, McMurray said her business saw a 57 percent increase in the hiring of contract workers, indicating companies need help, but are still cautious about hiring permanently.

“Companies are just trying to dip their toes in the water,” she said. “But it is still a positive sign, because it means the work is out there.”

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