It is hard to imagine the unemployment problem getting much worse. But the figures for November are in – and they are horrendous. The jobless rate in Hernando County is now pushing 15%, according to Ken Russ, vice president of the Pasco Hernando Workforce Board.
As is often the case, the true unemployment rate is usually higher than the official number. That’s because it doesn’t include those who have used up their unemployment benefits, or have simply given up looking for work.
For those struggling to find work, the word recession is an understatement.
In 1930, on the brink of the Great Depression, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was only 8.7%.
The rate climbed above 20% at the peek of the financial epidemic, and by 1936, had only settled down to 16.9%.
Whether you call it a depression or recession seems to depend on where you live. For the people of Hernando County, the numbers are undeniable. This county is in a depression.
So how did it get this bad?
At the height of the building boom in 2005, the focus in Hernando was on large homes, with six figure price tags. Sub divisions were laid out all over the county in hopes that the area would become the next West Palm Beach.
What city planners neglected to consider when they turned their focus toward catering to retired rich northerners, was that the area lacked value for the price tag. There was no shopping mall, and little more than a handful of movie theaters for entertainment. The area needed more than gold courses and Wal Mart to maintain its appeal. But as long as it was relatively cheap to live there, a ride down the Suncoast Expressway to Tampa filled in the blanks.
All that would soon change.
Some say it was the skyrocketing property taxes that triggered the beginning of the end for Hernando County. Some say lack of jobs has always been the issue. Perhaps it was a combination of both.
Throughout the boom years, county officials did not seem interested in making the area better. There were no plans to diversify the quantity or quality of area services and amenities. As long as there were plenty of construction jobs and the tax dollars kept rolling in, that was all they seemed interested in.
Now, with one of the highest foreclosure rates in the U.S., poor planning has backfired, and it will leave its scar for years to come.
What was once a place people thought they could comfortably spend the rest of their lives, has become a region of decaying, abandoned homes, and desperately poor people.
A far cry from the next West Palm Beach.
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