Florida’s low unemployment rate remains unchanged for a third consecutive month, with job gains continuing in professional services, education and health care, and hospitality.
Meanwhile, construction jobs fell for a fourth straight month as rising mortgage rates dampened demand for new homes.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday put the state’s unemployment figure at 2.6% for April, reflecting an estimated 281,000 Floridians qualifying as unemployed out of a labor force of 10.96 million.
The total number of unemployed people fell by 2,000 people compared to March, while the number of people in the labor force increased by 38,000 people.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was quick to credit his “strong economic policies and strategic investments” as the reason Florida enjoyed record first-quarter tourism and more than 200,000 new businesses last year, as the state topped the national unemployment rate of 3.4%.
“In Florida, we are combating negative national economic factors by advancing policies that support Florida businesses and families and attract record numbers of tourists every day,” DeSantis said in a press release announcing the latest unemployment numbers.
Friday’s release also included Visit Florida’s first quarter tourism results. The report noted that 37.9 million domestic and international travelers arrived in the state in the first quarter of 2023, compared to 35.528 million in the first three months of 2022.
Jimmy Heckman, chief of the Department of Economic Opportunity’s division of labor force statistics and economic research, called April’s job openings an increase in “a lot of different areas of Florida.”
“I think the fastest-growing industry this month was professional and business services, which have a lot of high-paying, high-skilled jobs in those sectors,” Heckman said on a conference call Friday.
From March to April, the professional and business services sector added 10,900 jobs, and education and health care added 7,100 jobs.
The number of housing and food-related jobs also increased by 3,400 since March.
Meanwhile, transportation, warehousing and utilities jobs fell by 4,800 in April, while construction jobs fell by 1,300, marking the fourth straight month of declines.
Heckman attributed the decline in construction jobs to “rising mortgage rates, which is affecting demand for new housing.”
“We’re seeing that impact on other metrics as well … like new housing, building permits, construction, things like that,” Heckman said. “So we’re really looking at the interest rate environment that’s driving that trend.”
Another trend that is observed is the opening of vacancies.
The state currently has 464,000 job listings posted online, down 12.3% from a year ago, Heckman said.
Since April 2022, when the unemployment rate was 3%, Florida’s labor force has grown by 248,000 and the number of unemployed has decreased by 36,000.
The education and health care sectors outpaced job growth last year, adding 90,600 jobs between April 2022 and April 2023. Jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry followed with 89,200 new jobs.
Meanwhile, jobs in the professional business sector rose by 50,200, manufacturing by 13,300 and construction by 8,600.
Among Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas, the Crestow-Fort Walton Beach-Destin area had the lowest April unemployment rate of 2%.
The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Naples-Immacoli-Marco Island and Panama City regions each accounted for 2.1%. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent and Jacksonville each accounted for 2.3%.
The highest unemployment rate was in the Homassa Springs area at 3.4%; Sebring area – 3.3%; and villages, by 3.1%.
The unemployment rate in the country as a whole is adjusted for seasonal factors, while it is not adjusted for the regions.
This is reported by Jim Turner for the News Service of Florida.