After dropping sharply to 9.4 percent in June–down almost five points from the month before–Flagler County’s unemployment rate rose again, to 10.2 percent in July, a reflection of the coronavirus resurgence that began and June, again diminishing economic activity even as Floridians willingly returned to the workforce in large numbers.
Florida’s unemployment rate rose to 11.3 percent, up a point from the revised June rate. There were 1.125 million officially unemployed Floridians–a figure that does not reflect the number of Floridians who are not counted as unemployed because they are not following the state’s strict guidelines in order to be counted. Floridians who have dropped out of the workforce out of discouragement, or who are not actively seeking work, are not counted as unemployed.
Flagler’s unemployment rolls increased by 400 in July, to 4,643. A year ago, just under 2,000 Flagler residents were collecting unemployment. The number of Flagler residents holding jobs actually increased by 400 as well, to almost 41,000. The seeming contradiction is explained by the 800-person increase in Flagler’s workforce, which had shrunk significantly in spring as workers dropped out of it–not voluntarily: the state’s fitful unemployment system did not count hundreds of thousands of unemployed because of its backlog. The result was that the local labor force shrunk artificially, and is still lower than it was a year ago by almost 2,000 workers.
Steep as it is, some 20 counties have higher unemployment rates than Flagler’s, with Osceola’s at 20.2 percent and Orange’s at 16.1 percent, a reflection of those two counties’ heavy reliance on tourism and conferences. Disney World reopened in Orlando in July even as the state had become covid-19’s epicenter (more than 19,000 people had signed a petition calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Disney company to delay the opening).
Florida was set to cross the 600,000-case mark today, second-most in the nation behind California, and this week exceeded 10,000 deaths in total from covid-19, the fifth-highest tally in the nation.
The state’s workforce increased by 223,000, or 2.3 percent, compared to June, and the economy restored nearly 78,000 jobs, half of those jobs in leisure and hospitality–the sector hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. But the sector is still 254,000 jobs short of where it was a year ago, with over 200,000 of those jobs in restaurants and bars. While most sectors gained some jobs last moth, almost all remain well below the job levels of a year ago. Retail, for example, restored 6,400 jobs last month but is 40,000 jobs below year-ago levels. Real estate, rental and leasing added 1,100 jobs but is 12,800 jobs short of levels a year ago. Federal, state and local governments added 3,800 jobs in July, but are 7,500 jobs short of year-ago levels.
Overall, the state economy is half a million jobs short of where it was a year ago. Florida lost 1,178,100 jobs from February to April, gaining back less than half so far (572,200 jobs) even though the governor has ordered the economy reopened in all sectors but for bars. But it’s consumers who have defined the economy’s strength and weaknesses: they remain leery of venturing too much into stores and restaurants.
The full unemployment report is below.