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Economy / Business

Florida Unemployment Rate at 5.1 Percent

VIRUS OUTBREAK CONGRESS STATES
Lynne Sladky
/
AP
A Marshalls retail store displays a Now Hiring sign during the new coronavirus pandemic in Miami on May 7, 2020.

Florida’s unemployment rate ticked up to 5.1% in July, as state officials pointed to people continuing to re-enter the labor force during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday that the July rate was up from a 5.0% mark in June. An estimated 530,000 Floridians were out of work in July from a workforce of 10.48 million, according to the department.

A problem remained in filling jobs, including advertised health-care, retail and food-services positions that are seen as being below many people’s skill levels and as offering low wages.

“I don't think there's a standout industry that's impacted. I think a lot of employers are feeling the impacts,” Adrienne Johnston, the department’s chief economist, told reporters in a conference call. “Again, it just takes a little bit of time. If you think back to the last recession that we had, it took years for people to get connected back into the labor force. And this is already happening at a much faster rate.”

The number of Floridians who qualified as being out of work in July grew by 6,000, while the workforce was up by 83,000.

In July 2020, as the state tried to reopen the economy after the pandemic caused businesses to shut down or scale back, Florida had an 11.5% unemployment rate, with 1.167 million people out of work from a workforce of 10.1 million.

“When you look at June and July (this year), we actually saw a higher uptick of people joining the labor force. So, that’s probably an indication of positive impacts there,” Johnston said. “Things are continuing to increase. We are continuing to see people move back into the labor force. They are encouraged to find work, and it just takes a little bit of time for those connections to be made.”

The state’s jobless rate remained below the national figure of 5.4 percent.

The figures for Florida included 63,900 additional private sector jobs in July. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he anticipated “pretty good” July unemployment numbers, including the addition of private-sector jobs.

“You are seeing a real boom in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Panama City. He added that tourism, “even in August, when it's hotter, it's just been off the charts. People are doing very well. And we want to continue to keep that going.”

The sectors that showed the most growth in July included such things as leisure and hospitality jobs.

State officials for months have pointed to businesses struggling to find workers and in June reinstated a “work search” rule that requires people claiming unemployment benefits to apply for five jobs a week.

DeSantis also stopped Florida’s participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provided $300 a week in federal benefits to unemployed people on top of the maximum $275 a week in state benefits.

Leon County Circuit Judge Layne Smith will hear arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by a group of South Florida residents who contend the DeSantis administration violated state law when it stopped providing the federal assistance. The lawsuit seeks to force the administration to resume providing the federal money to unemployed people.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a letter to Congress on Wednesday that the $300 weekly benefits, provided through the American Rescue Plan Act stimulus law, won’t be extended beyond a Sept. 6 cutoff.

"As President Biden has said, the boost was always intended to be temporary and it is appropriate for that benefit boost to expire," Yellen and Walsh wrote.

In Florida, the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin metropolitan statistical area had the lowest unemployment rate in July at 4.0%, followed by another Panhandle area, Panama City, at 4.3%.

The highest rate was found in Sebring area at 6.8%. The Villages and Homosassa Springs areas were both at 6.5%.

The unemployment rate in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan statistical area was 5.6%, while the tourism-heavy Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan area had a 5.3% jobless rate.

The Pensacola area was at 4.8%; the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area was at 4.7%; and the Jacksonville area was at 4.5%. The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, while the metro numbers are not.

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