On Tuesday, October 10, 2023, Nathan Sparks, the Director of One Okaloosa EDC, gave an update to the Fort Walton Beach City Council during their regular meeting.
- Sparks talked about the county’s low unemployment rate, along with a surge in available jobs here in Okaloosa County, both in manufacturing and STEM.
According to Sparks, the unemployment rate in Okaloosa County is 2.7%, the third lowest among Florida’s 67 counties. Sparks said Okaloosa trails only to Miami-Dade at 1.9% and Monroe County at 2%.
- The statewide unemployment rate matches Okaloosa’s at 2.7%, a full point lower than the national rate of 3.8%.
Florida Commerce, formerly known as the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, has an online job demand tool where they scour the internet and curate what postings are currently up in each county and municipality.
Sparks says the data shows 5,108 advertised job openings in Okaloosa as of August, up by almost 1,300 from the same month last year. He went on to say that openings in STEM-related fields totaled 799, up from 589 last August.
- “We have a lot more openings than we have people searching for work, which is a challenge,” Sparks said. “Keep in mind, there are only about 2,988 people, more or less, unemployed in Okaloosa County.”
On commercial space availability and manufacturing jobs, Sparks told the council that the City of Fort Walton Beach currently has 57 commercial and industrial buildings available for lease or sale. They range from 145 square feet to just under 25,000 square feet.
- The city has 2,044 registered businesses, Sparks said, with nearly 86% having fewer than 10 employees. “We are a community of small business. We’re a community of entrepreneurs,” he said.
With October being Manufacturing Appreciation Month, Sparks noted Fort Walton Beach accounts for 39% of Okaloosa’s manufacturing jobs, with 1,165 people working in manufacturing in the city. He said manufacturing has a “tremendous multiplier effect” in creating additional jobs.