TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s already-low unemployment rate dipped to 2.5 percent in September, though the numbers don’t take into account economic effects from Hurricane Ian.
A state economist said Friday that October numbers likely will show an impact from the Category 4 storm, which made landfall Sept. 28 in Southwest Florida, but wouldn’t speculate on potential changes.
The Department of Economic Opportunity released a report showing the September rate down from 2.7 percent in August and July. The September rate represented an estimated 266,000 people out of work from a labor force of 10.7 million.
“What else is new? We’ve been outpacing the nation on almost everything for the last few years,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday during a campaign event at ATMAX Equipment in Tampa. “Of course, part of the reason that was the case is because every governor had to make decisions about how they were going to look out for people over the last few years.”
The 2.5 percent rate, the lowest for the state since October 2006, is based on data collected before the hurricane made landfall and crossed Florida.
Adrienne Johnston, the Department of Economic Opportunity’s chief economist, said in a conference call with reporters that analysts are looking closely at the impact of the storm.
“Our team has been looking at past storms, and we’ve seen tremendous variation across different storms and how they’ve hit our state,” Johnston said. “So, we don’t want to speculate just yet.”
Florida saw a spike of initial jobless claims after Hurricane Ian, with the number increasing from 4,269 during the week the storm made landfall to 14,934 during the week that ended Oct. 8, according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates. The number of new claims dipped to 11,078 last week.
Florida was among 11 states that reported dips in unemployment rates in September. The others were Alaska, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Pennsylvania.
Rates in nine other states went up. They were Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimated on Oct. 7 the country added 263,000 jobs in September, with the national unemployment rate dropping from 3.7 percent to 3.5 percent. That matches the national rate in February 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started to damage the global economy.
While job growth has slowed from the start of the year, the number of jobs added nationally was slightly higher than anticipated, indicating the economy was plodding through increased inflation and higher interest rates.
A recent report by the state Department of Economic Opportunity projected Florida employment exceeding 10.8 million workers in 2030.
“This amounts to a statewide compound annual growth rate of 1.04 percent across the next eight years,” Johnston said. “The fastest growing occupations are those related to health care, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities.”
Over the past year, the state’s growth rate was 4.5 percent.
In that time, Florida has seen the most growth in the leisure and hospitality sector, which was hard hit early in the pandemic.
Among metropolitan statistical areas, the lowest unemployment rate in September was in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin region, at 2.2 percent, followed by the Panama City and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach areas, both at 2.3 percent.
The Jacksonville, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Pensacola regions were each at 2.5 percent. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford market was at 2.7 percent.
The highest rates were in the Sebring area at 4.1 percent, Homosassa Springs at 4 percent and The Villages at 3.9 percent.
The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, while the regional rates are not.