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Florida's unemployment rate drops and remains below the national average

Unemployment benefits claim and stack of documents.
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Florida’s unemployment rate dipped to 2.5% in December as businesses continue to struggle to fill positions.

The unemployment rate dropped to 2.5% in December, down from 2.6% in November.

Florida’s unemployment rate dipped to 2.5% in December as businesses continue to struggle to fill positions.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released a report Friday that showed the December rate down from 2.6% in November and from 3.5% in December 2021. About 271,000 Floridians qualified as unemployed last month from a workforce of 10.76 million.

Meanwhile, businesses in Florida are advertising for 442,000 positions, down from 455,000 in December.

“Florida’s statewide unemployment rate has now remained under the national rate for 25 consecutive months,” Jimmy Heckman, the Department of Economic Opportunity’s chief of workforce statistics and economic research, told reporters Friday.

In a news release, Gov. Ron DeSantis pointed to a 3.5% increase in Florida’s workforce over the past year, topping a national increase of 1.6%.

“Florida continues to outpace the nation and withstand negative headwinds due to federal policy,” DeSantis said in a prepared statement.

The national unemployment rate in December was 3.5%, representing 5.7 million people out of work, a drop of 278,000 from a year earlier.

“Under my plan to build an economy that works from the bottom up and the middle out, we’ve achieved the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, and 2021 and 2022 were the best years for job growth on record,” President Joe Biden said in a Twitter post Thursday.

The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book reported Wednesday that employment nationally continues to show modest growth in most of the Fed’s 12 districts.

“While some districts noted that labor availability had increased, firms continued to report difficulty in filling open positions,” the report said. “Many firms hesitated to lay off employees even as demand for their goods and services slowed and planned to reduce headcount through attrition if needed.”

Florida’s workforce grew by 361,000 people from December 2021 to December 2022. The number of filled positions increased by 9,000 from November to December and by 93,000 from December 2021, according to Friday’s report.

Jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector, which took the biggest hit when the COVID-19 pandemic crashed into the economy in 2020, saw the biggest gains from December 2021 to December 2022, increasing by 88,600. The next-biggest gains over the past year were in the category of education and health services, up 83,800 jobs, and the category of trade, transportation, and utilities, up 82,700 positions.

The state lost about 1.28 million jobs between February 2020 and April 2020 but has added back 1.78 million, according to the report.

Across the state, the lowest unemployment rates in December were in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach and Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin metropolitan statistical areas, both at 1.9%.

Next lowest was the Gainesville area at 2.0%.

The Jacksonville and Pensacola areas were both at 2.1%.

The highest marks were 3.6 percent in the Sebring area, 3.5 percent in the Homosassa Springs area and 3.4 percent in the area including The Villages.

The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, while the regional rates are not.