Unemployment in Sarasota and Manatee counties was up considerably in January from the revised December rate, as the leisure and hospitality sector continued to suffer significant losses.
The unemployment rate for Sarasota-Manatee hit 4.4% in January 2021, up from December’s revised 3.3% rate and up from 3.6% in January of last year. Sarasota County’s unemployment rate was 4.3% and Manatee’s was 4.4%, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Sarasota-Manatee had 15,986 unemployed residents in the region in January, data show, and the labor force was 366,283, down 1.9% year-over-year.
The leisure and hospitality sector in the region and in the state as a whole continued to suffer because of the pandemic. The industry was down 8,200 jobs in Sarasota-Manatee from last year, and down 284,100 jobs statewide.
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Adrienne Johnston, chief economist at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said the leisure and hospitality sector needs to remain a focus, even as the state’s overall labor force continues to grow.
“We’re continuing to see some job losses in the leisure and hospitality industry,” Johnston said in a conference call with reporters. “We know in January, there were some additional layoffs in the tourism industry related to some of the theme parks. And so that seems to be continuing to drive most of the job loss. We also saw some losses in professional business services as well in January.”
Despite the struggles of leisure and hospitality, unemployment in Florida as a whole continues to improve as vaccinations increase and people return to the workforce.
The state jobless rate was 4.8% in January, down 0.3 percentage points from a revised December rate.
In Sarasota-Manatee, mining, logging and construction jobs were up 2.7% over the year, and professional and business services jobs were up 2.3%.
Education and health services fell by 1,700 jobs, government lost 1,400 jobs, and trade, transportation and utilities and other services lost 900 each.
The manufacturing and financial activities sectors lost 200 jobs each, and information lost 100 in Sarasota-Manatee, data show.
The latest jobs report was released as more than 4.2 million people in Florida have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and the daily average of new coronavirus cases has been just over 4,500 a day the past week, the lowest daily average since a surge of cases started in early November.
Florida initially reported its December unemployment rate at 6.1%, but that number was subsequently revised to 5.1%. Sarasota-Manatee’s December unemployment rate was initially reported as 4.7% but was since revised to 3.3%, state data show.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted decisions made last year to allow businesses to reopen and to have in-person learning in schools.
“We really follow the data and made the right decisions about keeping kids in school, keeping the economy going,” DeSantis said Friday while in Sebastian.
Funds from the latest federal COVID-19 relief package are on their way to Florida. At least $17.6 billion of a new federal stimulus package is heading here, with the state government in line for more than $10 billion. Lawmakers are already planning to possibly use some of the money for transportation and water projects.
Florida, like the rest of the nation, suffered considerably at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. After businesses shut down last spring because of the pandemic, the state’s unemployment rate peaked at 12.9% in April. The January rate represents 482,000 jobless Floridians from a labor force that has fallen to 10.07 million.
Florida’s rate is better than the national mark of 6.3% for January, but it’s 1.5 percentage points higher than in January 2020, when Florida’s labor force had an additional 390,000 participants.
“Our labor force is much smaller. We did lose people as a whole in the labor force, and that was part of the revisions that were done for last year’s data,” Johnston said. “But toward the end of the year and continuing in January, we’ve seen people coming back into the labor force. So, we’re actually seeing a reversal of that trend.”
Across Florida, the Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island metropolitan statistical area had the lowest unemployment at 3.9%, followed by the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin area.
Among counties, Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, was at 3.5%.
At the other end, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan statistical area, which has topped the state in COVID-19 cases, had the highest unemployment at 6.4%.
The Sebring and Homosassa Springs metropolitan areas were next at 6.3%.
The tourism-dependent Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan area was at 5.8%.
The Jacksonville metropolitan area was at 4.4%, and the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area was at 4.6%.
The statewide 4.8% unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, while the local rates are not.
Herald-Tribune reporter Laura Finaldi contributed to this report, which includes material from News Service of Florida.
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