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Tue Feb 4, 2014, 09:53 AM

At 5.5%, Orlando unemployment rate nearing 'normal'


The unemployment rate in Metro Orlando has dipped to 5.5 percent, raising a question few have been willing to ask during the sputtering five-year recovery: Is it possible the job market is returning to normal?

The rate is the lowest in six years better than the state's (6.2 percent) and the nation's (6.7 percent) and not much higher than recent historical averages.

For example, Central Florida's average jobless rate from 2000 to 2008 the year before the labor market imploded was 4.3 percent. The average jobless rate from 1990 to 2008 was 4.7 percent.

Those numbers are better than December's 5.5 percent, but the region is narrowing the gap. It already has matched the 5.5 percent that the Congressional Budget Office calls "full employment" at the national level. That's the point where almost everyone who wants to work can find a job.

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