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State jobless rate inches up

Matching its highest level in two years, Florida’s unemployment rate has ticked up to 3.2 percent after holding steady for three consecutive months at 3.1 percent.

The Florida Department of Commerce on Friday estimated 353,000 Floridians were out of work and actively seeking employment in mid-March, an increase of 8,000 from a month earlier. At the same time, the overall labor force grew by 7,000 to 11.097 million.

“Population growth is a big driver of all the growth we are seeing in Florida,” Jimmy Heckman, the Department of Commerce’s chief of workforce statistics and economic research, said Friday. “That just creates more opportunities and more demand for goods and services, which creates more opportunities for businesses, which creates more demand for labor.”

The state figures follow U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier in the week showed 303,000 Floridians quit their jobs in February, one of the highest rates in the nation and an increase of 35,000 from a month earlier. In the same time, the state estimated there were 557,000 job openings, up 20,000 from the prior month.

“There are a lot of people that are confident in their ability to find jobs out there in the labor market,” Heckman said during a conference call with reporters. “We are seeing a couple of different things that point to that and there is a lot of demand for labor right now.”

Florida’s unemployment rate was last at 3.2 percent in March 2022.

A year ago, the jobless rate in Florida stood at 2.8 percent. Since that time, the labor force has grown by 185,000, while the ranks of the unemployed increased by 52,000.

Florida was the only state to post an increased unemployment rate from February to March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, while six states saw rates go down.

The national unemployment rate stands at 3.8 percent. The rate has been under 4 percent for more than 40 months, while wavering between 3.7 percent and 3.9 percent since August 2023.

Florida has gained 211,100 jobs over the year, an increase of 2.2 percent, while nationally the jobs numbers have risen by 1.9 percent, the state commerce department noted Friday.The month-to-month figures saw health-care and social-assistance jobs grow by 12,900, construction by 3,600 and service-providing jobs by 7,900. Food service and accommodations jobs dropped by 1,600, real estate jobs declined by 2,200, manufacturing was off by 1,600, and positions involving transportation, warehousing, and utilities were down 4,700.

Across Florida, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area, at 2.7 percent, continues to have the lowest unemployment level in the state. The 2 percent unemployment rate for the Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall region within the South Florida area was a 0.4 percentage point increase since February, which was among the highest month-to-month increases in the state.

Unemployment in the Orlando area was at 3.3 percent, while both Jacksonville and the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater areas were at 3.4 percent. Other rates included Pensacola at 3.5 percent.

The region around Homosassa Springs had the highest rate at 5.1 percent, down from 5.2 percent in February. The Villages was at 4.7 percent and Sebring was at 4.6 percent.

According to the FloridaCommerce, the regional unemployment rate for Gadsden, Leon, and Wakulla counties was 3.7 percent for March 2024.

The region’s March 2024 unemployment rate was 0.9 percentage point greater than the region’s year ago rate of 2.8 percent. Wakulla County had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.1 percent in the Capital Region followed by Leon County at 3.7 percent and Gadsden County at 4.0 percent. The region’s March 2024 unemployment rate was 0.9 percentage point above the state rate of 3.3 percent. There were 7,425 unemployed residents in the Capital Region. 

Jim Turner – News Service of Florida