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Florida Unemployment Continues Upward Climb

Lynne Sladky
A Marshalls retail store displays a Now Hiring sign during the new coronavirus pandemic in Miami on May 7, 2020. Florida plans to stop providing $300 a week in additional federal unemployment benefits as it pushes for people to return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida’s June unemployment rate is up slightly from the month before. Statistics released by the state Friday show June's unemployment rate was rate 5%, up 0.1 percentage point from May.

Florida’s unemployment rate again ticked upward as employers scramble to fill openings amid a surge in spending as people emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday announced the state’s unemployment rate for June stood at 5.0 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from the mark in May.

“We’re continuing to add jobs into our economy. So, that means businesses are responding to the market. More people are exchanging in the marketplace,” Adrienne Johnston, the state agency’s chief economist, told reporters in a conference call on Friday. “They are buying goods, and they are buying services. That means they need to add people, and they are adding employment.”

The June figure reflects an estimated 523,000 Floridians qualified as unemployed out of a workforce of 10.398 million. It is also the third straight month the jobless rate for Florida has grown by 0.1-percentage point, alongside an increase in the labor force.

Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted Friday the 69,300 private-sector jobs added last month represents “14 consecutive months of private-sector job growth and the largest monthly increase of the year.”

Florida’s workforce size is up 83,000 from May and a half million over June 2020, when the state was in the first stage of DeSantis’ reopening efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 38,000 Floridians have died from the highly contagious virus.

In June 2020, when the unemployment rate stood at 11.6 percent, an estimated 1.149 million Floridians were listed as out of work.

“More and more folks are receiving vaccines. Basically, what we are seeing in the data is that people are confident,” Johnston said. “They are continuing to engage in the labor force, and businesses are continuing to add jobs.”

State legislative economists in part have attributed an increase in revenue over the past few months to people receiving federal stimulus checks, which has helped some consumers to draw from atypically large savings that built up during the pandemic.

Johnston said the amassed savings through the pandemic is a factor in the ability of people to increase their spending.

Meanwhile, Johnston said it is too soon to determine if recent changes enacted by the state are driving people back into the workforce because the latest estimates are based upon conditions in mid-June.

State officials, repeatedly pointing to travel- and leisure-related businesses struggling to attract people to minimum-skill and -pay jobs, last month stopped participating in a federal program that offered $300 a week to qualified jobless applicants. DeSantis’ administration last month also reinstated the “work search” rule that requires unemployment claimants to apply for five jobs a week to receive up to $275 a week in state assistance, the maximum allowed in Florida.

According to Department of Economic Opportunity figures, just over half of the total job gains for June were in the leisure and hospitality fields.

The state lost 1.3 million jobs between February and April in 2020 and has recovered just over 70 percent of that number.

Johnston noted that professional and business services have recovered 92 percent of their lost workers, construction is at 99 percent of its pre-pandemic strength, and jobs in Florida involving financial activities exceed the numbers from the start of 2020.

The national unemployment rate, mirroring Florida, went up 0.1 percentage points, landing at 5.9 percent for June. Florida joined Iowa and Kansas, with rates going up from May to June. Seven states had rates go down month-to-month, while 40 held stable.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported on July 2 that the nation added 850,000 jobs in June, as the pace of hiring has picked up alongside a surge in pandemic-reopening consumer demand.

Across Florida, the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin metropolitan area had the lowest jobless rate in the state, at 4.4 percent. The inland Sebring area, where citrus growing is transitioning between growing seasons, was the highest, at 7.5 percent.

Among larger metropolitan areas, the tourism-dependent central Florida region including Orlando, Kissimmee and Sanford held a 6.0 percent unemployment rate while the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach region is at 6.2 percent.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area has a 5.2 percent unemployment rate, while the Jacksonville region is at 5.0 percent and the Pensacola area is at 5.2 percent.

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