Exactly 10 years ago, in April 2010, Flagler County’s unemployment rate stood at 15.4 percent, worst in the state. But the rate was improving: it was down from nearly 17 percent the previous month, and it would continue to improve month after month, bottoming out at 3.5 percent for three successive months last fall.
Then came the coronavirus emergency. This morning, the state’s labor department announced that Flagler County’s unemployment rate in April was 15.4 percent, 2.5 percent higher than the state’s 12.9 percent seasonally adjusted rate, and sixth worst in the state, behind Osceola (20.3), Monroe (17.5), Orange (16.5), Citrus (15.8) and Charlotte counties (15.6). Counties with economies heavily reliant on tourism were hit hardest. Florida’s unemployment rate was never this high during the Great Recession.
Over the past 10 years Flagler made a concerted effort to invest in its tourism economy, with significant successes. The downside is that, like Orlando, like the Keys, like other coastal regions that rely on their tourism as economic engines, Flagler is among the counties hurting the most from the dearth of travel and tourists.
The numbers were expected to be grim. Week after week record numbers of people have filed for initial unemployment claims. Some 38.8 million such claims have been filed across the country since mid-March, including 2.44 million in the week ending May 16, with 224,000 first-time claims filed in Florida that week, a thousand more than the week before.
As Flagler County and Palm Coast recovered from the Great Recession in the past 10 years, the county’s workforce grew by 11,200 people, with residents gaining 10,000 jobs along the way. (The jobs were not necessarily in the county: they reflect the number of residents holding jobs either in the county or in surrounding areas.) In 2019, Flagler County’s average unemployment rate was 3.9 percent. The state’s was 3.1 percent.
Ten years ago the number of unemployed residents in Flagler had peaked at 5,337 in August 2010, dwindling to just over 1,555 last December. In April, the number of jobless Flagler County residents was at 6,795, a number never seen in Flagler’s or Palm Coast’s history. The figure is an undercount: many more have filed for unemployment since, according to weekly initial claims.
Another trend is ending for now. Year after year, Flagler’s labor force kept growing. But in April, the labor force of 44,185 had shrunk by 3,200 from March, a 6.8 percent decrease, though the number may also indicate a lag between the time people lose work and the time they are registered as unemployed. The state’s unemployment system has been severely backlogged. Statewide, the labor force shrunk by 9 percent.
Statewide, more than 1 million private sector jobs were lost from March to April, and the number of people with jobs shrank by 1.65 million, to 8.22 million.
Gov. Ron DeSantis today said confidence in the reopening of the economy would help improve numbers, especially if theme parks are to reopen. “What I tried to do there this whole time, and was criticized for it relentlessly, was have a lighter touch because had I took some approaches that were more draconian, I think you’d see those numbers be way worse. Without question, it would be way worse,” DeSantis said, speaking at Ed Austin Park in Jacksonville today, according to the News Service of Florida.
“So, we tried to mitigate that as best as we could. Obviously, when the national shutdown was happening, that’s going to affect Florida, because you’re going to have fewer people that are going to come down here. But we really worked hard to mitigate it, because I understood that when you’re doing these measures, it’s not free and very few people were talking about what could happen on the other end. I was one of the few that was willing to do that.”
Florida, however, remains among the states with the slowest speed in processing unemployment claims, and with the stingiest unemployment compensation system in the United States (and among western democracies), providing just $275 a week for only 12 weeks, down from 26 before then-Gov. Rick Scott changed the system. (The 12-week limit will rise somewhat, now that the state’s unemployment rate has exceeded 5 percent.)
The average in the nation is at 26 weeks. Florida’s weekly unemployment benefits have not been adjusted for inflation since the rate was set at $275 some 12 years ago. Had it kept up with inflation, the benefit would have had to be $334 today. The system also required individuals on the unemployment rolls to abide by the most rigorous set of conditions, including meeting with at least five job prospects a week, to keep benefits. The conditions artificially and deceptively lowered the state’s unemployment rate.
The full unemployment report is below.
CB from PC says
Wealthy politicians who set unemployment to 12 weeks and fail to increase it to a realistic liveable tax-free stipend obviously have never had to deal with a long job search.
The search will be longer if you are highly paid or over 40. Oh, take a lower paying job. How many of you have heard “overqualified”?
So what is Mayor Holland going to do now that PCD layoffs are spiking Unemployment here locally?
How are our “leaders” at city and county levels going to keep this place from completely chartering.
Foreclosures and vacant homes are just an added bonus.
Mike Cocchiola says
I’m stunned and saddened. 7,000 jobless is a tragedy all around. We have to be ready to help. Our community – citizens, city leaders, businesses, churches, civic organizations, medical and mental health services – all need to stand together and prepare to do everything we can to keep people in their homes with food on the table during this awful time.
This is why we build communities, not just places to live.
One good thing is I’ll make more on unemployment if I ever get it !!!
I said it months ago & I’ll say it again, the economic shutdown is criminal for the 4 Coronavirus deaths that actually happened. Please don’t give me that the quarantine was that effective. This county hasn’t had anything that could be called effective testing, even to this point in time (5/22/2020). DeSantis & FL State Unemployment system is clinging to the Federal Unemployment Money and controlling the statistics of this. It’s a fire drill that is being done on the cheap & at the expense of the poorest as usual. How coincidental that this is record Republican unemployment levels ? Front end & back end of Bush & now Trump. The biggest mistake in this was letting the Federal Unemployment go thru Tallahassee & De Santis. That money should be disbursed by the IRS not a BAB State Unemployment agency of incompetence that crumbled under the load of the first wave of unemployment applications, a system that boasts a payout of 97% on 3% of the unemployment claims that they were able to process. 97% of 3% isn’t even 3% that leaves 97+% without unemployment to pay their bills & feed themselves with. Somebody needs to be removed from office, are they the one’s that bought moldy building after moldy building ? As you can ell by the tone of this post, I don’t suffer incompetent fools much or very well. At this point I want to hear how my taxes are going to be reduced. The schools are shuttered, so I don’t expect to see that line item on the tax bill. I don’t want to hear about playgrounds built for children just the same either.
CB from PC says
The fact is that Florida, whether under Republican or Democrat Governor does not want people on unemployment. Never has. That is why the maximum is $275 per week. Also, each state has own rules of unemployment eligibility, so using the IRS would not work.
For this pandemic there should be no rules flr unemployment. If you no longer have a job due to coronavirus then you should be issued unemployment. Point blank.
CB from PC says
Agreed. Those losing jobs during pandemic is due to no fault of theirs. The IT system is a POS never designed to handle this volume, and the State of Florida will not spend the money because this is the equivalent of a 500 year flood.
That system could not even handle the layoffs on 2008.
It has always been a red herring.
This is what happens when county leaders make it unfriendly to any business that isn’t service or tourism related. I came here in December 2009 during the Great Recession to care for my mom but still had to work. I didn’t find a job in my field till August 2011 and working minimum wage jobs didn’t help me keep my vehicle and pay my bills. Plus that job was located in St. John’s County. They lost many opportunities to Volusia to bring warehouse jobs here and now losing PC Data. I’m sorry but fast food, restaurants and many retail stores don’t pay the bills. They wanted a bedroom HOA community and the residents have to pay with no real paying jobs.
Perhaps we should do like Garcetti in LA wants, stay shut until a cure is found. That will solve all the problems if we just shut ourselves in………………yeah!
Im just still wondering when in the hell I am going to even see my unemployment… 2 applications later and first was denied. Than finally after weeks I got through to an agent who stated I must fill out another application and than file another on the pandemic unemployment program. And yet again 3 weeks later STILL NOTHING!!! NO PHONE CALL, LETTER!!!! NOTHING
This is ridiculous… You tell us we cant work but yet my mortgage still wants there monthly payments, utilities food etc still need to be paid!!!
Gov doesnt give 2 shits they are handed everything and have no worries… Its like a big FU to normal people!
Ok, just wait until the results are in from the weekend / Memorial Day! and get back with the real numbers.
It will take a few day’s but it won’t be good!
When will this state issue relief checks for undocumemted workers!? We are waiting! A $500 would really help get us threw while waiting to go back to work!
Perhaps all should stay-in-place until starvation. Next, wait for Federal government to make periodic Care Package airdrops in designated areas. Then watch the food fights! Survival of the fittest will cull the herd.