Flagler County’s unemployment rate in November rose slightly to 5.9 percent, from a revised 5.5 percent in October, as Florida’s rate remained unchanged at 6.4 percent, signaling a deepening stall of economic activity since summer’s end as the coronavirus continues to take a human and economic toll in the state: seasonal hiring has not materialized as it has in less diseased years.
The number of Flagler County residents holding jobs was flat, at 43,652, still almost 2,000 job-holders fewer than a year ago, with 200 more Flagler residents on the unemployment rolls in November, compared to October. The number of unemployed is almost certainly an undercount as it reflects only thgose who are following the state’s stringent rules to qualify for unemployment. The figure does not include those who have chosen to stop looking for work or decided to remain on the sidelines of the workforce for now.
The local workforce increased very slightly, to 46,400, but remains almost 1,000 short of the total a year ago.
As with anemic employment figures, consumer confidence in the state declined for the second straight month in November, dropping 3.5 points, according to the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The University of Florida’s survey of national consumer confidence, in contrast, posted a nearly 6 percent increase “due to a partisan shift in economic prospects,” the university reported. “Following Biden’s election, Democrats became much more optimistic, and Republicans much more pessimistic, the opposite of the partisan shift that occurred when Trump was elected.”
As was the case in the past four years, “self-identified Independents adopted more balanced views, maintaining their economic expectations in December at the same unfavorable levels as when the covid crisis began nine months ago,” the national consumer survey found.
“I think we’re seeing where people are shopping online a little bit more of the season. Businesses did not add as many employees to their payrolls,” Adrienne Johnston, the department’s chief of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics, told reporters in a conference call.
And while Johnston outlined agency long-term projections that indicate food and drinking establishments will gain the most jobs over the next eight years, she said it is hard to project short-term impacts of the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, which began coming to the state this week.
“It certainly could play a large role,” Johnston said. “But we’re already seeing things coming back to a large extent, too.”
Consumer confidence suggests otherwise. “Despite the positive news about the efficacy of several coronavirus vaccine frontrunners, bringing hope that economic activity can bounce back next year, Floridians’ views about future economic conditions plunged in November,” Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said in a release. “In fact, most of the pessimism comes specifically from Floridians’ opinions about their personal financial situation now compared with a year from now and from opinions about the national economic outlook in the long-run, signaling that Floridians expect a slow recovery. An important reason behind the decline is the outcome of the presidential election,” Sandoval said.
The state has regained nearly 60 percent of the 1.18 million jobs lost between February and April as the pandemic took hold. However, tourism-related leisure and hospitality fields, which picked up 11,800 jobs from October to November, mostly at hotels and restaurants, continue to be the most severely impacted, down 187,500 jobs from a year ago.
“The good news is we are seeing people come back into the labor market. Our labor force is growing,” Johnston said. “Businesses are creating jobs, so we are seeing things come back.”
The national unemployment rate for November was announced last week as inching down to 6.7 percent, from 6.9 percent, while Congress continues to discuss a wide-ranging relief package that could include $900 billion in relief funding.
The NFIB Research Center estimated Monday that without further federal assistance, about 25 percent of small-businesses owners will have to close their doors in the next six months, with another 22 percent being able to hold out for seven months to a year.
“Between now and the success of any vaccine is going to be the hardest time of all for small businesses affected by COVID,” Bill Herrle, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business-Florida, said in a prepared statement.
The decrease in the national unemployment rate in November was linked primarily to a large number of workers leaving the labor force.
Meanwhile, Florida saw its workforce grow by 49,000, from 10.097 million in October to 10.146 million in November.
A year ago, the state had a workforce of 10.4 million, with 297,000 out of work.
The categories of professional and business services in Florida were down 3.9 percent from a year ago, education and health services were off 1.9 percent, manufacturing was down 1.7 percent, and construction was down 2 percent.
The tourism-heavy Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan statistical area maintained the highest unemployment rate at 7.7 percent, with Osceola County unemployment at 9.7 percent and Orange County at 8.1 percent.
Next highest was the Lakeland-Winter Haven metropolitan statistical area at 7.4 percent, followed by the metropolitan statistical area from Miami to West Palm Beach at 7 percent.
The Orlando area has lost about 125,000 jobs over the year, while more than 267,000 jobs are missing from the Miami-to-West Palm Beach area.
The Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach area saw its unemployment rate rise from 5.7 to 6.1 percent, compared to 3.2 percent a year ago. Flagler County’s unemployment rate places it 21st, or about a third of the way down, from Osceola, the county with the highest unemployment rate, at 9.7 percent.
See the full unemployment report below.