Despite increased concerns about layoffs and a looming recession, Florida’s unemployment rate dipped in June.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday released a report that said the June rate was 2.8 percent, down from a revised 2.9 percent in May.
The June number represented 303,000 Floridians unemployed in a workforce of 10.633 million.
The June rate was a decrease from 4.8 percent in June 2021, when 499,000 people were out of work.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office seized on the new rate, saying Florida’s labor force has grown by 2.8 percent over the past year compared to the national rate of 1.8 percent.
“Despite Biden administration policies that have produced record inflation, skyrocketing gas prices, and slowing national GDP (gross domestic product), Florida continues to outpace the nation with strong job growth and an increasing labor force,” DeSantis said in a news release.
The release also said the state’s labor force was up by 40,000 people in the past month, an increase of 0.4 percent, while the national labor force shrunk by 353,000 in the same time, a 0.2 percentage-point reduction.
The national unemployment rate has hovered around 3.6 percent since March, after it was 5.9 percent in June 2021.
DeSantis, who is widely viewed as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has warned for months about a potential recession.
While Florida’s unemployment rate has decreased, the weekly average of people filing first-time jobless claims jumped from 3,984 over four weeks in March to 6,813 during the past four weeks.
Also, as an example, Tropicana last week advised the state that it would lay off 27 people around Sept. 13 from a Fort Pierce plant because of the drop in orange production across Florida.
“Given these unfortunate and unforeseen business circumstances, the future of the fruit processing operations at the Fort Pierce plant is highly uncertain, and this closure is expected to be permanent,” the company wrote to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
Also, CapTel Service Specialists, which provides captioning services to people with hearing loss, advised the state on Wednesday it expects September to permanently let go 243 workers in Orlando and 104 workers in Tampa, as it begins to offer “a new technology that provides customers with a choice of receiving captions through a fully-automated” system.
Florida’s 10 major employment sectors are up in jobs from last year, but the June report showed a monthly decline of 2,400 construction jobs, 2,200 government jobs, and 600 information-technology jobs.
But state economists pointed to positives.
Jobs in the leisure and hospitality fields, which still have ground to recover after massive losses early in the COVID-19 pandemic, had the largest gain in June at 12,100 new jobs, followed by education and health services which grew by 7,800 positions.
The state’s labor force was up 339,000 people from pre-pandemic levels but has seen increases in people quitting jobs for 15 consecutive months.
Adrienne Johnston, chief economist for the Department of Economic Opportunity said that people voluntarily exiting jobs indicates “individuals are more optimistic about their ability to find work if they leave their current job.”
“As the labor force expands, and the pool of people experiencing persistent unemployment shrinks, voluntary transitions will naturally tend to grow as a share of unemployment,” Johnston said.
Florida was one of 10 states to record unemployment rate declines in June and one of 20 with rates below the national park, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Missouri had the biggest drop, a 0.3 percentage-point reduction, to 2.8 percent.
Minnesota has the lowest unemployment rate at 1.8 percent.
The District of Columbia had the highest unemployment rate, 5.5 percent, followed by New Mexico at 4.9 percent.
Across Florida, the highest unemployment rate was in rural Hendry County at 5.3 percent, followed by Highlands County at 4.6 percent.
The lowest rate was 1.9 percent in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys. Miami-Dade County was next lowest at 2.2 percent, and St. Johns County was at 2.3 percent.
The statewide rate is seasonally adjusted, while the county rates are not.