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State’s jobless rate rises to 7.6% as NE Florida’s rate falls

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida posted a 7.6% unemployment rate in September, a slight uptick as the state’s hospitality and tourism industries continue to face long-term struggles during the coronavirus pandemic.

The September mark was up 0.3 percentage points from August, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The state initially reported the August rate at 7.4% but revised it Friday to 7.3%.

The September rate reflected 770,000 jobless Floridians -- 27,000 more than in August -- out of a labor force of 10.14 million people. The News Service will have a full story later Friday.

The picture is quite different in metro Jacksonville, with a 5.1% average rate for September -- actually 0.6% lower than August. Duval County’s rate is 5.7%. Flagler and Putnam counties rates are higher, but still below the state average. Alachua, Baker, Clay, Nassau St. Johns and Union counties are all under 4.5% -- among the 20 lowest rates among Florida’s 67 counties.

“Overall, the labor force number did decline, but what we are seeing is an increase in the number of people who are saying that they are unemployed but looking for work,” Adrienne Johnston, the department’s chief of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics, told reporters Friday. “So, it could be that people are more encouraged to look for work, so they are counting themselves as unemployed. But I will point out that the labor force did decline over the month.”

One offshoot of the latest numbers is that the state’s average unemployment of 8.7% in the third quarter of the year could trigger a boost in the number of weeks -- from 12 to 19 -- that jobless people can draw assistance.

State law holds the number of weeks at 12 when unemployment is at or below 5% with an additional week added for each 0.5 percentage point above 5% in the third quarter of a calendar year. Any change wouldn’t occur until 2021.

News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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