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Jax Daily Record Friday, Apr. 16, 202110:24 AM EST

Loh: Higher unemployment rate indicates improving economy

Jacksonville’s adjusted 4.51% is up, but so is the number of people looking for jobs.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

While Jacksonville’s unemployment rate rose in March, University of North Florida economist Albert Loh said the data points to an improving economy.

“The labor market condition looks much better than what the slight uptick in unemployment rate may lead one to believe,” Loh said.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported April 16 that the jobless rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area of Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties rose from 4.2% in February to 4.4% in March.

The state agency does not adjust the Jacksonville data for seasonal factors but even when it’s adjusted, the area’s jobless rate still rose by 0.35 percentage points to 4.51%, Loh said.

“The unemployment rate usually falls slightly from February to March, so the increase last month may appear against the trend. However, the main reason for the uptick last month is because of a sharper return of workers to the workforce,” he said.

The labor force grew by about 9,000 people in the metro area and by 5,600 in Duval County last month.

The labor force consists of people with jobs and people actively looking for work, so the number counted as unemployed rose in March.

However, employment rose by more than 7,500 in the metro area and by 4,700 in Duval County.

“The increase in employment in March is actually quite significant,” Loh said.

Duval County’s unemployment rate rose by 0.2 points last month to 4.8%, the Department of Economic Opportunity said. When seasonally adjusted, the rate rose from 4.73% to 4.98%, Loh said.

Duval County had the highest unemployment rate among the five counties in the Jacksonville metro area but the other counties ranked among the lowest in the state.

St. Johns County’s unadjusted 3.6% jobless rate was second-lowest behind Monroe County’s 3.3%. Clay and Nassau counties both tied for fourth lowest at 4%.

Baker County was at 4.1%.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged in March at 4.7%, the Department of Economic Opportunity said.

Almost every major industry sector reported increased hiring in March, according to the department’s survey of Northeast Florida nonfarm business payrolls

The hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector added 1,800 jobs from February to March. But that sector was still down by 8,600, or 10%, since March 2020, the month before the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread business shutdowns.

The best performing sector through the pandemic has been financial activities which gained 1,500 jobs last month and was up 3,600, or 5.3%, in the 12 months through March. It’s the only major sector that has gained jobs during the pandemic.

The only sector that didn’t increase jobs last month was information, which was unchanged from February to March.

Total nonfarm jobs grew by 6,800 last month but were still 9,400 lower than in March 2020, a 1.3% decline. 


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