Eight months into the pandemic, Florida’s economy is holding somewhat steady after precipitous peaks in unemployment during the spring.
According to state figures released Friday, the state’s unemployment rate was flat at 6.4 percent in November from October, and Florida gained gained 4,000 jobs, up less than 1 percent.
But other indicators — such as government employment — are showing further signs of distress. And the unemployment rate both statewide and local are still significantly higher than they were pre-pandemic.
With a possible federal stimulus package looming, vaccines on the horizon and key Senate runoff races in Georgia next month, much of the short-term economic future will be uncertain.
“A lot of stuff isn’t going to come back right away,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James. “That’s still going to remain depressed until the vaccines are distributed.”
Over-the-year job losses were largely contained in sectors most affected by the pandemic. Leisure and hospitality, one of Florida’s dominant industries, lost 187,500 jobs compared to this time last year, down nearly 15 percent. Professional and business services were down about 4 percent (53,800 jobs) while government lost about 4 percent (45,700 jobs) since last year.
And while the holidays are typically heavy on seasonal hiring, this year’s numbers are lower because of pandemic restrictions. Spending, too, has moved largely online as consumers spend more time at home.
“This is going to be really bad for a lot of retailers,” Brown said. “A lot is going to depend on what happens in the holiday season. It’s a make or break for the year.”
Tampa Bay’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 5.7 percent in November from October’s 5.4 percent. Hillsborough County increased to 5.9 percent from 5.6 percent; Hernando county jumped to 6.4 percent from 5.9 percent; Pinellas County rose to 5.4 percent from 5.1 percent and Pasco county increased to 5.8 percent from 5.4 percent.
Tampa Bay added 12,900 jobs from October to November.
One of the weak areas for the economy in November is government employment. While state government gained 1,600 jobs last month (up less than 1 percent) and local government gained 700 positions (up less than 1 percent), both were down nearly 5 percent compared to last year. Loss of funds there, Brown said, is “going to be an ongoing issue.”
Nationally, the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent.
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