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Florida's jobless rate dips to 3%

An IHOP in Pinecrest advertises for workers on April 9, 2021.
Tom Hudson
An IHOP in Pinecrest advertises for workers on April 9, 2021.

Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 3% in April, while Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to warn about high gasoline prices and a potential recession that he blames on federal economic policies.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity released a report Friday that showed the April unemployment rate was down from 3.2% in March. During an appearance at Retro Fitness in West Palm Beach, DeSantis touched on the unemployment report, which indicated Florida picked up about 57,000 private-sector jobs last month.

“Employers in Florida have now 24 consecutive months where we've had private-sector job growth, and our private-sector growth has exceeded the nation's for over a year,” DeSantis said. “I think even, you know, somewhat more importantly, if you look at some of the dislocations we see in other parts of the country, and even around the world, our labor force grew by 30,000 people. The nation as a whole lost 363,000 people from the workforce.”

DeSantis also used the appearance to continue to forecast increases in already-record gas prices amid summer travel and the potential for four-decade-high inflation to result in a recession. DeSantis said the state has large reserves that would help it ward off any initial hit from a national economic downturn.

“We're happy that we're doing it right in Florida,” DeSantis said. “We're making the good decisions. The results are obviously very positive. But we're mindful about the storms brewing on the horizon out of Washington, D.C., and we're prepared from a budget perspective.”

The national unemployment rate was 3.6 percent last month.

Florida’s unemployment rate improved from 5.1 percent in April 2021. Last month, 321,000 people qualified as unemployed from a workforce of 10.54 million. The workforce grew by 309,000 people from April 2021 to last month.

The state lost 1.28 million jobs from February 2020 to April 2020, when businesses shuttered and cut back in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida has regained those jobs and added to them, with the total at nearly 1.5 million jobs, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

One sign of improved economic conditions for workers is that 404,000 Floridians in March quit jobs, 97,000 more than in February and 167,000 more than a year earlier, Adrienne Johnston, the department’s chief economist, said in a conference call with reporters.

“It's not people moving out of the labor force. It's not people who are discouraged. It's people who are actually encouraged,” Johnston said. “They feel that there are opportunities to find other work and perhaps improve their career.”

The new report also showed that over the past year the leisure and hospitality industry, which took the biggest hit from the pandemic, gained 152,300 jobs.

Johnston noted the hospitality sector is below where it was before the pandemic. But record tourism in the first quarter of 2022 offered positive signs for the industry, Johnston added.

“We know that the industry overall is performing very well and that there's a lot of productivity in that industry,” Johnston said. “We just haven't quite gotten back to where we were with jobs, but we continue to make progress in that area.”

After leisure and hospitality, sectors involved with trade, transportation and utilities have done the second best in adding jobs over the past year, up 118,400 positions, followed by professional and business services at 102,100 jobs and financial activities at 40,800 jobs.

The state also reported growth over the past year in jobs in manufacturing, construction and education and health services.

The tourism-heavy Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area added the most jobs in the past year, up 103,000, according to the department.

The lowest unemployment rates last month were in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin and Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island regions, both at 1.9%.

Among large metro areas, the Jacksonville region was at 2.2%, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach region was at 2.5%, and the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford region was at 2.6%.

The Sebring area had the highest rate at 3.5%, followed by Homosassa Springs at 3.3 percent and The Villages at 3.0%.

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

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