As Florida workers continue to lose jobs, experts worry they may not have the skills needed to obtain work in industries that are growing.
"We all have to continually upgrade ourselves," said Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida. "Job security is something from our past. The best we can hope for now is employment security."
Many, particularly those who've lost jobs in construction, banking or real estate, need to resign themselves to going back to school, Snaith said. Sectors that are expected to grow include health care.
"Some of those jobs aren't coming back," he said. "Some people will have to completely change careers."
The nation showed signs of improvement last week, as new claims for laid-off workers dropped unexpectedly. But things got worse in Florida.
The Sunshine State ranked third-worst among the states for its increase of 3,179 new jobless claims during Christmas week. State officials attributed the increase to the loss of additional jobs in construction, other trades, service industries and agriculture sectors.
It could get worse and is expected to last for a while.
The latest unemployment rate numbers show that the Tampa metro hit 12.3 percent in November. That's the highest jobless rate among Florida's big metropolitan areas.
Florida's 11.5 percent unemployment rate is higher than the national average of 10 percent, according to figures from the Agency for Workforce Innovation.
Snaith said he expects Florida's unemployment rate to stay in the double digits until 2012. Payroll likely won't reach pre-recession levels until 2014, he said.
"The labor market is the ugly scar that will be left over from this economic trauma," he said. "It will be slow to fade."
Rebecca Rust, chief economist for the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, said the agency projects employment in Florida will improve in the second quarter of 2010 and that the state will see positive job creation by the end of June.
Economists say they expect to see growth in the health care industry and social services but that it will take time for the manufacturing and construction sectors to come back.
The only industry that showed growth in the most recent report from the workforce innovation group is private education and health services. The two sectors gained a combined 8,400 jobs in November, compared to the same time a year ago. All other major industry sectors had fewer jobs in November, compared to the same month the previous year.
Even so, lower-paying jobs are expected to come back stronger - and faster.
Chris Lafakis, an economist who covers Tampa Bay for Moody's Economy.com, said the area's unemployment rate is expected to bottom in the third quarter of this year at 13.6 percent.
Employment is expected to improve, he said, during the fourth quarter.
"Early in the recovery, we typically see jobs, such as retail, tourism and call center jobs," Lafakis said.
Snaith said he thinks professional services, such as lawyers and those in advertising and marketing, will come back before the middle-income jobs.
"The folks in middle management at companies will have a difficult time finding a new job with similar pay."