TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s unemployment rate dropped a whopping four points in August, according to figures released by the state Friday, bringing it to 7.4 percent.
The significant drop represents a sign that Florida’s economy is starting to pick up steam, but industry groups remain cautiously optimistic about the state’s economic outlook given the ongoing pandemic.
The state reported 46,000 private sector jobs were created in August as 143,000 Floridians returned to work.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency charged with helping people find jobs, credited the job gains in large part to students' returning to school, which allowed their parents to get back to work.
“Job gains were happening across almost all industries,” said Adrienne Johnston, bureau chief of workforce statistics and economic research at the Department of Economic Opportunity.
[View county-by-county unemployment data using the table below]
But the state’s economy isn’t out of the woods just yet.
More than 750,000 Floridians are still jobless and some of the hardest-hit industries, such as hospitality and tourism, saw some of the smallest gains compared to other industries.
On Friday, the state posted a Sept. 10 letter from Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort that announced 1,136 pending employee terminations.
“The crisis' impact on the industry has been historic, swift and devastating,” wrote Donna Stanton, the company’s human resources market director. “A careful review of business forecasts shows that challenging business conditions, including historically low hotel occupancy and mounting event cancellations, will extend into 2021.”
The Disney cuts come on the heels of Universal Orlando extending furloughs of 5,398 workers at least six more months, SeaWorld of Florida laying off 1,896 of its previously furloughed workers, and Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort making 139 temporary furloughs permanent.
“Consumer sentiment, that’s actually dipped a little bit,” Geoff Luebkemann, vice president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said.
Luebkemann warned that the longterm damage from the pandemic is yet to be seen.
“We’re kind of holding our breath as businesses have done whatever they needed to do to survive this time with little to no revenue,” Luebkemann said.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce shares the same concerns, but representatives for the organization are hopeful that the job gains will continue along a positive trajectory.
“We’re having more and more treatments for COVID-19 and people are feeling more comfortable going out," said Dr. Jerry Parrish, chief economist for the Florida Chamber. “But until we get a vaccine and it’s widely distributed, I certainly don’t expect us to get back to 100 percent.”
While more Floridians are returning to the workforce, that statistic comes with a caveat: the numbers don’t reflect how many hours workers are getting or if they’ve taken lower-paying jobs to make ends meet.
The national unemployment rate also dropped by nearly two points in August, now sitting at 8.4 percent. It’s the first time that rate has dipped to single digits since the beginning of the pandemic.
Information from the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.