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Brevard County’s unemployment rate jumped from 3.3% in December to 4.5% in January, state officials reported Monday, in what was the first glimpse of how the local labor market is performing in 2021.
However, the increase in the local jobless rate was a reflection of more people entering the labor force looking for work, rather than a decrease in the number of people who have a job. In fact, the number of people who were employed in Brevard increased by 1,459 from December to January.
Brevard’s unemployment rate is lower than those of most other Florida counties and metropolitan areas.
In another positive sign for the local labor market, CareerSource Brevard reports that Brevard had the highest year-over-year increase in manufacturing employment of any metropolitan area in the state — up 900 jobs or 3.2%.
Brevard’s 4.5% unemployment rate for January also was below the statewide rate of 5.3% and the national rate of 6.8%. The figures are not seasonally adjusted for changes in hiring patterns — for example, temporary pre-Christmas hiring or the loss of education jobs during the summer months.
The government also reports seasonally adjusted figures for Florida (4.8% in January) and the nation (6.3%), but not for individual counties.
Tourism jobs lagging
During a conference call with reporters, Department of Economic Opportunity chief economist Adrienne Johnston said the construction and financial sectors were recovering well statewide, based on job gains in recent months.
But the leisure and hospitality sector was lagging, with a decrease of 284,100 jobs statewide since January 2020, a 22.3% drop, including a decline of 9,800 jobs from December to January. Johnston said that sector continues to trigger overall job losses in the Orlando metropolitan area, which is the nation’s theme park capital and has a 5.8% jobless rate.
In Brevard County — where tourism also is a key component of the economy — the leisure and hospitality sector lost 4,100 jobs since January 2020, a 14.4% drop.
Other industries with job losses in Brevard in the last year were education and health services (-3,300 jobs); government (-900 jobs); other services (-800 jobs); information (-400 jobs); and trade, transportation and utilities (-300 jobs).
The industries gaining in jobs over the year in Brevard included manufacturing (+900 jobs); construction/mining/logging (+500 jobs); financial activities (+300 jobs); and professional and business services (+300 jobs).
Brevard better than most
Brevard’s unemployment rate was lower than those of 42 of the 66 other Florida counties, tied with four, and higher than in 20. It was lower than in 17 of the 23 other Florida metropolitan areas, tied with one, and higher than five.
Among metro areas, Miami had the highest unemployment rate (8.1%) and Naples had the lowest (3.9%).
Among individual counties, Miami-Dade had the highest unemployment rate (8.1%), and Monroe and St. Johns counties were tied for the lowest (3.5%).
Florida Department of Economic Opportunity officials say the January labor statistics reflect the continued effects of COVID-19, and the efforts to reopen businesses and services in recent months.
Florida lost 1.27 million jobs from February through April 2020, and has since gained back more than half of the jobs lost, 688,300 jobs. Still, all 10 major industries lost jobs in the last year.
January was the ninth consecutive month of month-over-month statewide job growth, with an increase of 1,700 private-sector jobs in the month. Six of the 10 industries gained jobs from December to January.
“Jobs are continuing to be added back into our economy, and people are going back into work,” Johnston said. “So job growth is connecting people back into the labor market, and people are getting jobs.”
In a statement released Monday, Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Dane Eagle said he was “proud of the work we have done to ensure Floridians continue to return to the workforce.”
Johnston said Florida’s employment levels have partially recovered to between 93.6% and 94.8% of the pre-COVID-19 job count figures they were at in February 2020, depending on which of two employment data-collection methods is used. Every metro area but Lakeland-Winter Haven lost jobs in the last year, with the Orlando metro area reporting the biggest percentage loss (12.9% or 172,400 jobs).
The number of people employed in Brevard was 270,510 in January, up from 269,051 in December, but down from 276,503 in January 2020.
The number of people unemployed in Brevard was 12,786 in January, up from 9,254 in December and 10,499 in January 2020, when the unemployment rate was 3.7%.
Rejoining labor force
Johnston said she is starting to see a reversal of the trend of people leaving the labor force. For example, in January, there were 10.11 million Floridians in the labor force, up from 9.97 million in December, but down from 10.46 million in January 2020. People not in the workforce — thus not seeking work — are not counted in the computation of the unemployment rate.
The state’s January unemployment report was not released until March because of a time-consuming annual process known as “benchmarking” that takes place at this time of the year in every state, as well as updates in federal statistical models, both of which adjust previously reported data.
As a result the peak statewide unemployment rate during 2020 was adjusted to 14.2% in May, not the previous figure of 13.8% in April. Additionally, December’s statewide jobless rate was revised to 5.1%, down from the previously reported 6.1%. The jobless rate was as low as 3.3% in pre-pandemic January and February 2020.
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