Florida’s tourism-reliant economy saw its unemployment rate go up to 14.5 percent in May, even while businesses started reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday announced the 14.5 percent rate, which represents an estimated 1.412 million Floridians out of work from a labor force of nearly 9.71 million.
The department also revised upward the April unemployment rate to 13.8 percent. It had been earlier estimated at 12.9 percent.
The May numbers included jobless rates of 31.1 percent in Osceola County and 23.2 percent in Orange County, as the Central Florida communities rely heavily on the tourism and hospitality industries.
Despite the increase in the state unemployment rate, Adrienne Johnston, bureau chief of workforce statistics and economic research at the Department of Economic Opportunity, pointed to signs people are returning to the workforce after Gov. Ron DeSantis started reopening efforts in early May.
“You can see both things happening at the same time,” Johnston said of the unemployment rate going up while people return to jobs that had been put on hold as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
“There are likely people who are coming back into the workforce, they're encouraged to find jobs,” she said in a conference call with reporters. “And so, they may be counted as unemployed, but they are actively seeking work, and they were not counted as that in the prior month.”
The state recorded monthly upticks in workers in a number of fields, including construction, accommodations, food service, hair salons, dry cleaning and health care. Declines remained in publishing, broadcasting, telephone communications, financial activities and government.
Overall, the number of private jobs in the state was down 834,900 from May 2019.
After businesses shut down or dramatically scaled back in late March and April, DeSantis began the first phase of reopening plans on May 4, including allowing restaurants and retail stores to serve limited numbers of customers. DeSantis started the second phase on June 5, which included allowing bars and movie theaters to open in most of the state.The U.S. unemployment rate fell from 14.7 in April to 13.3 percent May, as Northern hot spots for the virus saw cases slow and as 2.5 million jobs were added nationally.
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