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Florida’s jobless rate dropped during December

The state added 16,800 jobs during that period according to figures released Friday.
Florida's unemployment rate declined again in December, according to the latest figures released by the state. Pictured are job applicants at the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa in September. | [Scott Keeler | Times (2020)]
Florida's unemployment rate declined again in December, according to the latest figures released by the state. Pictured are job applicants at the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa in September. | [Scott Keeler | Times (2020)] [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Jan. 22
Updated Jan. 22

Florida’s unemployment rate improved slightly in December as the state made modest job gains from the prior month. But the uneven economic fractures caused by the pandemic aren’t allowing significant recovery, according to state data released Friday.

The state jobless rate declined to 6.1 percent last month, down less than 1 percent from November. Florida added 16,800 new jobs last month, up less than 1 percent. The gains were offset by significantly fewer positions being available overall than last year, as the state lost 419,000 jobs compared to December 2019 (down 4.6 percent).

“Most of the jobs affected have been the lower paying jobs,” PNC economist Abbey Omodunbi said. “The front-line leisure and hospitality jobs bore the brunt of this recession.”

Leisure and Hospitality lost the largest number of jobs from November to December (2,300 positions, down less than 1 percent), followed by education and health services (down 1,600 jobs, less than 1 percent).

Sectors that skew more white-collar continued to fare better. Professional and business services gained the largest number of jobs last month (11,600 positions, up nearly 1 percent), outpacing trade, transportation and utilities, which had the second-largest December job gains (4,800, up less than 1 percent).

One area of continued softness is in government employment. The government sector lost 4,300 jobs from November to December and is down nearly 48,000 jobs from December 2019. Most of the monthly cuts (3,000 jobs) were from state government, while the largest annual loss (36,100 jobs) was from local government.

“Lots of state and local governments are under pressure because many of their revenue streams have dried up,” Omodunbi said. “It’s hard to make their budget projections due to this pandemic.”

Aid to state and local governments was limited to the first installment of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, but Omodunbi expects further aid to be rolled out under President Joe Biden’s administration.

Tampa Bay’s unemployment rate declined in December to 5.2 percent from November’s 5.5 percent. Hillsborough County stayed flat at 6.3 percent from November, while Hernando County declined less than 1 percent to 5.9 percent. Pinellas County dipped to 5 percent from the previous month’s 5.2 percent, and Pasco County slid to 5.2 percent from 5.5 percent the month prior.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in December.

Omodunbi said he does not expect the state’s economy to rebound to pre-pandemic levels until the end of the year at the earliest, potentially into 2022.

“Things are likely going to be slower economically until there’s a full vaccine rollout and until a substantial part of the population gets vaccinated,” he said.

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