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Florida’s jobless rate drops in June, but recovery is still partial

The state's jobless rate dropped in June by more than three points.
Florida’s jobless rate drops in June after historic high. Pictured is Cindy West, 36, with her children at a rally for unemployment benefits in Tampa. [Margo Snipe | Times]
Florida’s jobless rate drops in June after historic high. Pictured is Cindy West, 36, with her children at a rally for unemployment benefits in Tampa. [Margo Snipe | Times] [ MARGO SNIPE | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jul. 17, 2020
Updated Jul. 17, 2020

After peaking in May, Florida’s unemployment rate fell as the state continued in its partial economic recovery.

State numbers released Friday showed the jobless rate dropped to 10.4 percent from May’s 14.5 percent. The more than three-point improvement is still far from March’s 4.4 percent when the first indications of a pandemic began to show.

Florida added 296,000 jobs last month.

“One of the concerns we have now is that you’re still looking at a weaker pace of demand in the overall economy,” Raymond James Financial senior economist Scott Brown said.

Tampa Bay’s jobless rate dropped to 9.2 percent in June from May’s 12.2 percent. Hillsborough County’s rate was 9.1 percent, down from 11.8 percent the month prior. Pinellas Count saw a jobless rate of 9 percent from 12.4 percent, while Hernando County went to 10.2 percent from 13.5 percent. Pasco County’s rate was 9.4 percent, down from 12.6 percent.

Neighboring Polk County had the fourth-highest unemployment rate in June — 14.1 percent. Osceola County had the state’s highest jobless rate at 22.9 percent.

Tampa Bay added 26,100 jobs over the month, the fourth-highest over-the-month addition by Florida’s metro areas. All metro areas lost jobs compared to this time least year except the Villages, which added 100 jobs.

What dampens the small monthly gains in the unemployment rate and jobs added, Brown said, are the continually increasing jobless claims filed across Florida. The most recent count of unemployment claims spiked to 129,400 for the week ending July 11, nearly double from the week before.

“We may see that continuing over time,” Brown said. “Firms are still going to be laying people off in broader areas, not just those immediately affected by the pandemic.”

Related: In a week, Florida’s new unemployment claims nearly double

Some areas of the economy are beginning to show some signs of recovery, such as retail sales. Auto sales, Brown said, also ticked up. Because many people are staying home and spending less, their savings may be growing if they are still employed.

“That’s a down payment for a car or a house,” he said.

How Florida’s economy fares going forward, Brown said, depends in large part on the progression of the virus. But other factors may have immediate impacts, such as whether Congress extends the extra $600 per week unemployment benefits that are slated to end July 31.

“That’s going to be a problem,” he said. “It is an election year, so there is an incentive to (extend it).”

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