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Florida's jobless rate is below the national average and at a level before the COVID-19 pandemic

Florida’s unemployment rate might be about as low as it can go as it remained at 2.7% in August.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday released a report showing the rate unchanged from July. The agency estimated 293,000 Floridians were out of work in mid-August, an increase of 10,000 from July, while the labor force grew by 49,000 to 10.706 million.

Jimmy Heckman, the department’s chief of workforce statistics and economic research, said while the state has seen “very consistent unemployment rate decreases over the past couple of years,” economic theory would indicate “we're probably getting pretty close to the bottom here.”

“It will really take a couple of more months of data to really see what happens,” Heckman said in a conference call with reporters.

Heckman added that the state hasn't seen inflation and other national economic forces affect the job market “at this time.”

“But it is something that we're continuing to look out for,” Heckman said.

The 10,000 increase in people unemployed in August was the first monthly uptick since July 2020.

The 2.7% unemployment rate matches the level before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state in 2020 and caused business cutbacks and closures. Florida lost 1.28 million jobs from February 2020 to April 2020. The state estimates it has regained those lost jobs and added 1.65 million more.

Florida’s unemployment rate has been below the national level for 21 consecutive months.

The U.S. Department of Labor said the national rate rose by 0.2 percentage points, to 3.7%, in August, while labor-force participation increased by 0.3 percentage points. Participation is still down a full percentage point from February 2020.

Last week, Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research, cautioned members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission that Florida’s real-estate market could slow as mortgage rates rise and housing-affordability issues increase.

Economists have forecast that revenue generated through documentary-stamp taxes on real-estate transactions will decline 15.6% this fiscal year and 10.7% in the 2023-2024 year.

Baker also pointed to mixed signals in the economy. Still, the state has seen its labor force grow by 308,000 in the past year, with the number of people classified as unemployed dropping by 155,000.

In August 2021, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.3%.

Across Florida, the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin metropolitan statistical area had the lowest unemployment rate last month at 2.3%.

The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area was at 2.6%. The Pensacola and Tampa-St. Petersburg areas were at 2.7%. The Jacksonville area was at 2.8%. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford region was at 2.9%. The Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach-Deltona area was at 3.0%, and the Lakeland-Winter Haven area was at 3.5%.

The highest marks were in the area including The Villages, 4.0%, the area around Homosassa Springs, 4.2%, and the Sebring region at 4.4%.

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

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Jim Turner - News Service of Florida
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