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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 21, 202203:20 PM EST

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate drops to its 3.2% pre-pandemic level

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The Northeast Florida economy rebounded as business payrolls returned to their February 2020 number.
by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate fell back to its pre-pandemic level in December, completing a rebound year for the Northeast Florida economy.

The jobless rate for the Jacksonville metropolitan area of Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties fell from 3.3% in November to 3.2% in December, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Jan. 21.

That equaled the 3.2% rate in February 2020, the month before the coronavirus pandemic began causing widespread business shutdowns.

The state agency does not adjust the data for seasonal factors, such as the usual increase in hiring in December for the holiday season.

The University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project reported when the data is seasonally adjusted, the Jacksonville area unemployment rate actually rose from 3.31% in November to 3.53% in December.

Albert Loh

“While the transportation, warehousing and utility sector saw major job gains, leisure and hospitality experienced a net loss in employment, which likely reflected the impact of the rising omicron cases in the U.S.,” UNF economist Albert Loh said.

Leisure and hospitality businesses, which had been increasing hiring as the industry recovered from 2020 shutdowns, reported a loss of 2,700 jobs from November to December.

Duval County’s unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage point to 3.5%, the Department of Economic Opportunity reported. When seasonally adjusted, the rate dropped by a half-point to 3.42%, Loh said.

The other four counties in the metro area all dropped by 0.1 point last month, without seasonal adjustment. St. Johns County continued to have one of the lowest rates in the state at 2.5%, trailing only Miami-Dade County at 1.4% and Monroe County at 2.1%.

The Miami-Dade rate was a sharp drop from 3.5% in November.

Nassau County was at 2.8%, Clay County was at 2.9% and Baker County was at 3.1%.

Two counties near Jacksonville, but not part of the metro area, had the highest rates in the state: Putnam County was at 5.2% and Hamilton County was at 5.1%.

The Department of Economic Opportunity’s survey of nonfarm business payrolls showed the Jacksonville area increased employment by 29,200 from December 2020 through December 2021, a 4% gain.

Every major private industry sector added jobs during the year. The biggest gains came in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which increased by 8,700, or 5.4%.

Despite the big job losses last month, the leisure and hospitality sector had a net gain for the full year of 2,900, or 3.8%.

Business payrolls got back to their February 2020 pre-pandemic level of 732,200 in September and reached 752,500 at the end of the year.

Statewide, Florida’s labor market has not caught up to its pre-pandemic level. The Department of Economic Opportunity said businesses have gained back 92.1% of the 1.27 million jobs lost between February and April 2020.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment fell by 0.1 percentage point to 4.4% in December, but it remained well above the February 2020 rate of 3.3%. 

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