Flagler County’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.7 percent in June, from 13.7 percent in May, as more than 2,000 people regained the jobs they’d lost during the April lockdown from the coronavirus, though the workforce remains lower than it was a year ago, by about the same number.
The number of unemployed fell from 6,100 in May to 4,371 in June in Flagler, pointing to a substantial rebound, though the surge in Covid-19 cases statewide and in Flagler since the June 5 Phase 2 reopening is casting doubt on the extent of the recovery.
Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 10.4 percent in June.
Numbers released Friday by the state Department of Economic Opportunity estimated that 1.02 million Floridians were out of work in mid-June, a drop of 298,000 from May. Tourism and hospitality remained the hardest-hit industries, even as major theme parks have started to reopen.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, while in Apopka on Friday to announce federal money for housing and rent assistance, said there is a “long” way to go, despite many people getting back to work.
“We look forward to that unemployment rate getting back to where we want it,” DeSantis said. The state unemployment rate had been at 3.5 percent before the pandemic, and at 3.6 percent in Flagler, aided locally by construction and retail activity.
Florida initially estimated the May unemployment rate at 14.5 percent, as the first phase of DeSantis’ economic recovery effort started. However, the May number was adjusted downward to 13.7 percent in the report released Friday.
Any optimism about the lower unemployment rate, however, is tempered because the numbers don’t reflect the state’s decision to close bars again in late June because of widespread non-compliance with coronavirus guidelines. Also, the release of the June numbers came a day after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its no-sail order for the passenger cruise industry through Sept. 30, sending cruise stocks tumbling.
The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday estimated first-time jobless claims in Florida increased to 129,408 last week, up from 66,941 during the week that ended July 4. Meanwhile, Florida is in the midst of a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.
“We know that certain industries are going to continue to be impacted more than others, certainly leisure and hospitality and travel-related industries,” Adrienne Johnston, the bureau chief of workforce statistics and economic research at the Department of Economic Opportunity, said in a conference call with reporters. “But I think until we really know the full scale and scope of the pandemic, and how long businesses are continuing to respond to it, it’s going to take some time for us to understand exactly what those impacts are going to be.”
Johnston also noted that while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has made significant improvements in the estimates during the pandemic, underestimates continue at the national and state levels as people surveyed often list themselves as employed while furloughed. Those people should be classified as unemployed, she said.
“We can see that Florida had more of a share of those who were misclassified than other states,” Johnston said. “So, particularly back in March and April, we knew that there was an underestimate for the rate.”
Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo issued a statement blaming President Donald Trump’s “erratic and ineffective response to the pandemic” for the economic woes.
“We are more than four months into this crisis, and while other countries are getting back to work after containing the virus, the situation in Florida is only getting worse,” Rizzo said. “While Trump spends his days picking fights and insulting people on Twitter, Floridians are fighting to survive.”
Florida Senate Democrats this week called for a statewide requirement for people to wear face masks in public and for the retail and restaurant maximum occupancy level to be scaled back from 50 percent to 25 percent to fight the pandemic.
Conversely, the Trump campaign issued a release Friday that noted 30 states “added back a whopping 100,000 or more jobs” in the past two months and that the unemployment rate fell in 42 states from May to June.
Florida’s changes announced Friday put the state closer to the 13.3 percent national unemployment rate for May and below the national 11.1 percent mark in June. The change also shifted the state’s peak unemployment rate during the pandemic to the 13.8 percent mark in April.
DeSantis’ second phase of economic recovery got underway in most of the state on June 8, with indoor maximum occupancy of restaurants and retail outlets increased from 25 to 50 percent and major entertainment venues given the go-ahead to slowly reopen. Bars and nightclubs also were allowed to reopen, though that decision was later reversed.
Not surprisingly, tourism-dependent Osceola County, with 22.9 percent unemployment, and Orange County, at 17.2 percent, had the highest unemployment marks in the state in June.
At the other end, rural Lafayette County was the lowest at 4.9 percent, followed by Union County at 5.6 percent, and DeSoto, Wakulla and Gilchrist counties each at 5.9 percent.
–FlaglerLive and News Service of Florida