By Jim Turner
The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE, FL — Florida’s low unemployment rate remained unchanged for a third straight month, with new jobs continuing in the fields of professional services, education and health, and hospitality.
Meanwhile, construction jobs declined for a fourth consecutive month as rising mortgage rates diminished the demand for new residential homes.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity on Friday put the state’s jobless figure at 2.6 percent for April, reflecting an estimated 281,000 Floridians qualified as out-of-work from a labor force at 10.96 million.
The jobless total is down 2,000 from March while the workforce is up 38,000.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was quick to credit his “strong economic policy and strategic investments” for Florida posting record first-quarter tourism and more than 200,000 new business openings over the past year, as the state bested the national unemployment rate of 3.4 percent.
“In Florida, we are combatting negative national economic headwinds by promoting policies that support Florida businesses and families and attract record numbers of tourists every day,” DeSantis said in a press release announcing the latest unemployment figures.
Friday’s release also included first-quarter tourism results from Visit Florida. The report indicated an estimated 37.9 million domestic and international travelers into the state during the first quarter of 2023, up from 35.528 million in the first three months of 2022.
Jimmy Heckman, the Department of Economic Opportunity’s chief of workforce statistics and economic research, credited the April job numbers to growth in “a lot of different areas in Florida.“
“I think this month the fastest growing industry was professional and business services, which have a lot of high wage, high skill jobs in those sectors,” Heckman told reports during a conference call Friday.
From March to April, the professional and business services sector added 10,900 jobs, while education and health services added 7,100 jobs.
Jobs involving accommodations and food services also gained, increasing by 3,400 from March.
Meanwhile, positions involving transportation, warehousing, and utilities dropped by 4,800 and construction jobs declined by 1,300 in April, marking a fourth consecutive month of shrinking numbers.
Heckman attributed the drop in construction jobs on “rising mortgage rates that affects demand for new housing.”
“We’re seeing that play out in other metrics too … like new housing, construction permits and housing starts and things of that nature,” Heckman said. “So really, we’re really looking at the interest-rate environment that’s driving that specific trend.”
Another trend being watched is job openings.
The state currently lists 464,000 jobs posted online, a 12.3 percent decline from a year ago, Heckman said.
Since April 2022, when the unemployment rate was 3.0 percent, Florida’s labor force has grown by 248,000 people and the number of people listed as unemployed has declined by 36,000.
The education and health-service sectors topped the past year’s job growth, adding 90,600 positions from April 2022 to April 2023. Jobs in the leisure and hospitality industries followed, with 89,200 new jobs.
Meanwhile, jobs in the professional business sector grew by 50,200, manufacturing added 13,300 positions and construction added 8,600.
Among Florida’s metropolitan-statistical areas, the lowest unemployment rate in April was 2 percent in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin area.
The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island and the Panama City regions were each at 2.1 percent. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent and Jacksonville areas were each at 2.3 percent.
The highest unemployment rates were in the Homosassa Springs area, at 3.4 percent; the Sebring area, at 3.3 percent; and the Villages, at 3.1 percent.
The statewide unemployment rate is seasonally adjusted, while the regional rates are not adjusted.
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