TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s unemployment rate fell to 3% in April as Governor Ron DeSantis continues to warn of high gas prices and a potential recession he blames on federal economic policies.
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The state Department of Economic Opportunity released a report on Friday that said April’s unemployment rate was down from 3.2% in March. During an appearance at Retro Fitness in West Palm Beach, DeSantis brought up the unemployment report, which said Florida added about 57,000 private sector jobs last month.
“Employers in Florida now have 24 straight months where we’ve had private sector job growth, and our private sector growth has outpaced the nation for more than a year,” DeSantis said. “I think even, you know, a little more important, if you look at some of the dislocations that we see in other parts of the country, and even around the world, our workforce has increased by 30,000 people. The nation as a whole lost 363,000 people to the job market.
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DeSantis also took advantage of the appearance to continue forecasting already-record gas price increases amid summer travel and the potential for four-decade high inflation that could lead to a recession. DeSantis said the state has significant reserves that would help it ward off any initial hit from a national economic downturn.
“We’re glad we’re doing it well in Florida,” DeSantis said. “We make the right decisions. The results are obviously very positive. But we’re aware of the storms brewing on the horizon out of Washington, DC, and we’re prepared fiscally.
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The national unemployment rate was 3.6% last month.
Florida’s unemployment rate improved from 5.1% in April 2021. Last month, 321,000 people qualified as unemployed out of a labor force of 10.54 million. The workforce increased by 309,000 people from April 2021 to last month.
The state lost 1.28 million jobs from February 2020 to April 2020 when businesses closed and reduced operations at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida has found those jobs and added them, with a total of nearly 1.5 million jobs, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
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A sign of improving economic conditions for workers is that 404,000 Floridians left their jobs in March, 97,000 more than in February and 167,000 more than a year earlier, said Adrienne Johnston, economist in chief of the department, during a conference call with journalists.
“These are not people who leave the labor market. It’s not the people who are discouraged. These are the people who are really encouraged,” Johnston said. “They feel there are opportunities to find other work and maybe improve their careers.”
The new report also showed that over the past year, the leisure and hospitality industry, which has been hardest hit by the pandemic, gained 152,300 jobs.
Johnston noted that the hospitality industry is below where it was before the pandemic. But record tourism in the first quarter of 2022 offered positive signs for the industry, Johnston added.
“We know the whole industry is doing very well and there’s a lot of productivity in this industry,” Johnston said. “We just haven’t gotten back to where we were with the jobs, but we’re still making progress in this area.”
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After leisure and hospitality, the trade, transport and utilities sectors were the second best in terms of job creation over the past year, up 118,400 positions, followed by professional services and commercial with 102,100 jobs and financial activities with 40,800 jobs.
The state also reported growth over the past year in jobs in manufacturing, construction, and education and health services.
The tourist-heavy Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area added the most jobs over the past year, up 103,000, according to the department.
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The lowest unemployment rates last month were in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin and Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island areas, both at 1.9%.
Among major metropolitan areas, the Jacksonville area was at 2.2%, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area at 2.5%, and the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area at 2.6%.
The Sebring area had the highest rate at 3.5%, followed by Homosassa Springs at 3.3% and The Villages at 3.0%.
The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, while the regional rates are unadjusted.
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