Local unemployment continues rise in aftermath of terrorism
By Jon Gutierrez
Unemployment in Miami-Dade rose 34% in September from a year ago, according to figures released Tuesday by the Beacon Council.
The numbers show 7,139 people filed unemployment claims in the month, up from 5,325 in September 2000. In the last week of the month, 2,788 filed claims, 81% above the 1,532 who filed during the third week of September.
"Our own task involves keeping money moving and helping those in need," said Jack Lowell, chairman of the Economic Generation & Recovery Task Force organized last week by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Lowell spoke Tuesday at a special meeting of the county commission that was called to discuss growing economic concerns.
So far, Mr. Lowell said, the cities of Miami and Miami Beach have agreed to extend the cities' business hours to speed capital improvement projects.
Mr. Lowell asked commissioners to help by hastening the procurement process, the awarding of county bids for projects and services, to keep projects "already in the pipeline" moving.
The Miami-Dade County Commission responded by approving a resolution to declare "a local state of emergency" that primarily, will allow the county manager's office to speed the procurement process.
The results came in answer to one of many problems outlined by the task force in its first meeting on Sept. 26 and then reiterated by key members on Tuesday to county officials. The group organized due to growing concern about the drop in tourism and related sudden economic downturn following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
To aid with the growing unemployment, the task force also has decided to set up a displaced worker center to offer extra assistance. The committee, through the United Way, will use the existing South Florida Workforce's 25 one-stop career centers that offer job training and placement, according to Tammy Klingler.
They also plan to also create "rapid response centers" on the campuses of Miami-Dade Community College within the next three weeks, said Ms. Klingler, senior vice president of public relations for United Way of Miami-Dade. The additional centers will teach the unemployed about resources available to help with financial matters and paperwork.
A trends & data committee headed by John Cordrey of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade's economic development agency, will be providing weekly reports on the county's economy, focusing on those industries hit hardest by the decline in tourism.
"We cannot rely on data that is two or three months old," Dr. Cordrey said. "We cannot rely on data that is even one month old. That's the data that I've been using most of my life. We're going to have to go out, and we're going to have to call on people to give us information on a weekly or maybe every other week basis.
"That's the kind of data-collection process we're going to have to do to be able to track how we're doing."
The group will be monitoring hotel occupancy rates, unemployment figures, sales tax collection, cruise line capacity rates and airline activity, Dr. Cordrey said. He said plans also call for assessing retail sales by large local companies such as JCPenney and Burdines but said it may be difficult to get accurate information.