Unemployment rates in Charlotte, Sarasota and DeSoto counties all dropped in February — a sign that the area is recovering from the economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic that left thousands out of work when it struck almost a year ago.
The construction industry remains hot in Southwest Florida, with new jobs coming into the area each month.
“People are moving from New York and New Jersey,” said Janeth Castrejon, spokeswoman for CareerSource Southwest Florida. “The houses can’t be built fast enough to meet the demand.”
Charlotte County’s jobless rate was 4.1% in February, a slight drop from the 4.3% reported in January, according to data released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Back in May 2020, the DEO reported Charlotte County’s jobless rate as 13.5%.
Sarasota County reported an unemployment rate of 3.7% in February — a few percentage points lower than January’s 4.1% jobless rate.
Despite the growth of construction jobs, the Punta Gorda metro statistical area has lost 2,100 non-agricultural jobs over the past year, according to DEO data.
There were 49,200 non-agricultural jobs in the Punta Gorda metro in February, a 4.1% decrease over the year.
The majority of those lost jobs are in the leisure and hospitality industry, according to Castrejon.
“It’s probably going to take another year and a half for leisure and hospitality to recuperate from the virus,” Castrejon said. “There’s no immediate recovery for that industry.”
DeSoto County’s jobless rate in February was 2.8% — even lower than it was in February of 2020 at 3.5%.
In Southwest Florida, it’s a job seeker’s market right now. There are more jobs than there are people searching for work.