TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s unemployment rate held at 3 percent in May, even as people exit jobs in search of better opportunities and concerns continue about the impacts of inflation.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity released a report Friday that showed the unemployment rate unchanged from April. It estimated the number of Floridians out of work in May at 313,000, down 8,000 from April and down 186,000 from May 2021.
Meanwhile, the labor force stood at 10.59 million, up 49,000 from April. The state gained 468,100 jobs over the year, an increase of 5.3 percent. Nationally, the number of jobs rose 4.5 percent over the year.
Despite the gains, the state has seen increases in people leaving jobs for 14 consecutive months to pursue better pay and benefits.
Jimmy Heckman, bureau chief of workforce statistics and economics at the department, said in a conference call with reporters that the growth of people leaving jobs indicates “individuals are more optimistic about their ability to find work if they leave their current job.”
“This pattern is also the result of the continued decline in total unemployment, as the labor force expands and the pool of people experiencing persistent unemployment shrinks, the voluntary transitions will naturally tend to grow as a share of employment,” Heckman said.
The state numbers came after the national unemployment rate held at 3.6 percent in May. A looming recession remains a concern for economists, as U.S. stocks fell this week with investors weighing the potential impacts of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to fight inflation.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly criticized the Biden administration’s economic policies, pointing to high gasoline prices during several appearances this week.
“A lot of states are even higher than what we’re seeing in Florida (at the pump),” DeSantis said Thursday in Miami. “There’s been places like out in Nevada, California, they’ve been over five, six bucks for a while. And so, this is really, really problematic, and it has a huge impact on people’s ability to make ends meet. And it permeates things like what you see in the grocery store.”
Florida lost 1.28 million jobs from February 2020 to April 2020, when businesses shuttered and cut back in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report released Friday showed the state has recovered that total of jobs and surpassed it by 223,600.
The report also showed that as of May, the leisure and hospitality industry had gained 127,700 jobs over the past year. The industry took the biggest hit from the pandemic and remains short of its pre-pandemic level, Heckman said.
Professional and business services added 431,700 positions year-over-year, while jobs in finance grew by 34,800.
The state also continues to see increases in jobs in manufacturing, construction and education and health services.
The lowest unemployment rate last month was in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin metropolitan statistical area at 2.0 percent, followed by the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island and Panama City areas, which were both at 2.1 percent.
Among large metro areas, the Jacksonville region was at 2.3 percent, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach region was at 2.4 percent, and the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford region was at 2.7 percent.
The Sebring area had the highest rate at 3.6 percent, followed by Homosassa Springs at 3.5 percent and The Villages at 3.4 percent.
The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, while the regional rates are not adjusted.