Florida economic growth expected to soar 5.2% over two years as unemployment hovers near historic low

by | Mar 27, 2023



  • Florida’s unemployment rate held steady at 2.6% in February, indicating continued job growth, particularly in industries like leisure and hospitality.
  • State analysts predict a 5.2% increase in total employment over the next two years, with the leisure and hospitality sector expected to experience the most significant growth at 8.1%.
  • Governor DeSantis touted the state’s faster-than-national economic growth rate and labor force expansion.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s unemployment rate was unchanged at 2.6 percent in February, with job growth expected to continue in parts of the economy such as leisure and hospitality.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday released a report that said 284,000 Floridians qualified as unemployed in February, down 2,000 from a month earlier. Meanwhile, the labor force grew by 24,000 to reach 10.879 million.

The 2.6 percent rate was the same as in January.

Friday’s numbers were accompanied by a report from the department that showed total employment in Florida is expected to grow by 5.2 percent over the next two years.

“The leisure and hospitality industry is projected to grow the fastest of all industries, at 8.1 percent, adding 100,653 jobs over the two-year window,” Jimmy Heckman, the department’s chief of workforce statistics and economic research, said in a conference call.

Jobs in professional and business services and in the education and health sectors are projected to grow by 6.9 percent in the two-year outlook. Construction jobs are forecast to increase by 4.5 percent, with manufacturing jobs up 4.1 percent.

The February unemployment rate was down from 3.3 percent a year earlier, with the labor force growing by 247,000 and the number of people out-of-work reduced by 66,000.

Florida’s non-agricultural employment was up by 427,400 workers over the year, trailing only Texas at 611,400 and California, 486,500.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office issued a news release that said Florida’s 2.3 percent growth rate over the past year was faster than the national rate of 1.5 percent.

“Florida’s economy continues to be number one in new business formations while growing our labor force and creating jobs faster than the national rate,” DeSantis said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported this month the national unemployment rate ticked up from 3.4 percent in January to an estimated 3.6 percent in February. The national increase was due, at least in part, to nearly 500,000 people rejoining the labor force.

Driven by lodging and food-service jobs, Florida added 10,700 leisure and hospitality positions in February, with the sector up by 104,700 jobs from February 2022.

Retail jobs also had a big gain in February, up 13,100 from January.

Meanwhile, manufacturing jobs fell by 2,000 in February, while increasing by 16,700 since February 2022.

Construction jobs were up 500 in February and by 19,700 from February 2022.

Among regional totals, the February unemployment rate in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan statistical area was 2.2 percent, the lowest in the state.

The rate was 2.5 percent in the Jacksonville and Tampa-St. Petersburg regions and 2.6 percent in the Orlando and Pensacola areas.

The highest rates were in The Villages, Sebring and Homosassa Springs regions, each at 3.8 percent.

The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, while the metropolitan statistical area rates are not.

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