By Cecil G. Brumley
We're not out of the woods, yet, but Volusia County is finally gaining some traction on the employment treadmill.
Unemployment was at 8.8 percent in September, still rather high, but it dropped from 9.1 percent in August and 10.8 percent in September 2011, according to the latest report from the state labor department. Unlike earlier in the year when the rate was falling because workers were dropping out of the labor force, it is now falling because of more people telling surveyors they have a job. The Volusia labor force was still down about 2,000 workers from last year, but the number of employed workers was up 3,416, the report shows.
Now for the nagging problem: Many of those workers were probably getting jobs outside the county. The non-agricultural labor survey shows Volusia is still down 1,400 jobs from last year, with nearly all the decline in the business services sector. Meanwhile, in the three big markets surrounding Volusia, the survey shows jobs were up from last year. The Orlando area (Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties) was up 18,800 jobs. Jacksonville (Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties) was up 6,300 jobs. Even Brevard County was up 1,300 jobs.
But here's where it gets strange. While manufacturing jobs are supposed to be disappearing across the nation, they are increasing in Volusia, up 100 from last year. While healthcare is still the sector that probably will continue to lead the county out of the employment doldrums, judging by the postings on the state jobs board, manufacturers are hiring, and that could be the boost this area really needs.
Brown & Brown continued its phenomenal growth, reporting third quarter revenue of $303 million, up 16.7 percent from last year, and net income of $49.5 million, up 12.1 percent. While much of the increase was because of the Daytona Beach-based company acquiring other insurance agencies, it also noted 13 percent growth in its operation in existence at the end of the third quarter in 2011.
Despite the airlines cutting back on flights, Daytona Beach International Airport still reported an increase in passenger traffic in September. With 42,865 travelers passing through the airport for the month, traffic was up 8 percent from 39,547 in September 2011.
On the restaurant beat, Outback Steakhouse has now opened its relocated place on West International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach. A new Chipotle Mexican Grill opened in front of Lowe's on Dunlawton Avenue in Port Orange and, right around the corner on Taylor Branch Road, Golden Corral opened Monday.
Apparently a Pompano Beach company is moving forward with an apartment project at Dunn Avenue and Jimmy Ann Drive in Daytona Beach. It will be interesting to see whether that one or one near the South Daytona-Port Orange border will get built first.
There were several commercial real estate deals of note recently. The most expensive was the apartments on Nova Road, just south of Bellevue Avenue in Daytona Beach, going for $2.55 million. Dollar store developer Millennium Venture Group sold the new Dollar General on Spring Garden Avenue in DeLand for $1.644 million. Interest in Main Street in Daytona Beach could be picking up. A Winter Park family bought a store building in the 600 block for $620,000. Surety Bank unloaded one of its foreclosed commercial properties, selling a convenience store at Deltona Boulevard and Enterprise Road in Deltona for $425,000.
On a final note, the first big project for Daytona International Speedway, as owner International Speedway Corp. redevelops it and the area around it, is replacing the front-stretch seating. It's a little mind-boggling, but that means that huge stretch of seats will be torn down and new seating put in place. It's about time DIS did something since much of it looks like a high school football stadium.
Associate Managing Editor Cecil G. Brumley has been tracking business in Volusia County for more than 15 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cecilbrumley.