Florida continues to claw back jobs lost during COVID-19

Florida gained 32,900 private sector jobs in March, continuing its rapid pace of employment growth, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Friday.

“Florida has seen 11 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Our unemployment rate is 4.7% — far below the national rate of 6.0%,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a Tweet Friday.

Since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, the state’s private sector jobs have grown by 777,600. Over the year, the state’s private sector job rate decline was 5.0%, much improved from April 2020’s rate of 14.3%.

At 4.7%, the state’s unemployment rate has remained below the national rate for eight months in a row and has fallen by 0.2% over the year.

“Florida businesses have remained open and our economy continues to provide opportunities for Floridians to return to work and provide for their families,” said Dane Eagle, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The total labor force was up 46,000 in March, bringing the total number of those working in the state to 10.17 million.

Leisure and hospitality gained 9,100 new jobs, trade, transportation and utilities grew by 6,300; education and health services saw 5,700 new jobs; and professional and business services gained 5,600 new jobs.

Travel, leisure and hospitality sectors are expected to remain under pressure due to the lingering effects of COVID-19 pandemic on tourism, areas that play an important role in the Sunshine State's economy.

State, county and city officials have been pushing for the full resumption of cruises. The state has taken on the Biden Administration with Attorney General Ashley Moody filing suit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for orders that have kept cruise ships docked. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and other South Florida elected officials have called for the safe return of cruising.

Broken down regionally, the Miami area’s unemployment rate fell to 8.2% last month, down from the 15.2% reported in July 2020, the highest rate seen in the city during the pandemic. Year-over-year, Miami’s private-sector employment fell 7%, or by 75,200 jobs. The industry experiencing the biggest job declines in the city was leisure and hospitality, which lost 34,900 jobs over the year.

The unemployment rate in the Orlando area was 5.4% in March, down from the 22.6% reported in May 2020. For the year, Orlando area private-sector employment fell by 12.6%, or 151,300 jobs. The industry experiencing the biggest job losses was leisure and hospitality, which shed 97,000 jobs over the year.

In Fort Lauderdale, the unemployment rate was 5.3% last month, down from the 17.2% reported in May 2020. For the year, private-sector employment fell by 5.6%, or 42,200 jobs. The industry experiencing the biggest job losses was leisure and hospitality, which lost 12,800 jobs over the year.

Elsewhere in the state, the Jacksonville’s rate was 4.4%, Pensacola’s rate was 4.5%, Tampa’s rate was 4.7% and West Palm Beach’s rate was 4.7%.

Meanwhile, residents were feeling a bit more optimistic in March. The state’s consumer sentiment index rose to 80.9 last month, up 3.7 points from 77.2 in February.

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