Jacksonville area job market 'is roughly halfway back' UNF economist says

Jobless rate falls to 8% in June from a revised 10.4% in May.

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  • | 2:20 p.m. July 17, 2020
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As businesses began to reopen last month after COVID-19-related closures, Jacksonville’s unemployment rate dropped sharply.

The jobless rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area of Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties fell from a revised 10.4% in May to 8% in June, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported July 17.

The state agency does not adjust the data for seasonal factors but according to the University of North Florida’s Local Economic Indicators Project, when the rate is seasonally adjusted it shows a similar decline from 10.48% in May to 7.35% in June.

“The latest local employment statistics show that the recovery of the labor market in the Jacksonville area continued with the resumption of economic activities,” said UNF economist Albert Loh.

The number of people in the labor force (those who are employed or actively looking for a job) grew by more than 15,000 to 748,074 in June. 

That reflects workers who were disengaged during the shutdown returning to work, Loh said.

But while the size of the labor force grew, the number of unemployed people in Northeast Florida fell sharply by about 16,000 to 59,589 as workers returned to their jobs.

Although the labor market improved in June, it still is much weaker than it was before the pandemic.

“To put these numbers in perspective, the local job market is roughly halfway back to the level in February before the shutdown,” Loh said.

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate, without seasonal adjustment, was 3% in February.

The surveys of unemployment are taken in the middle of every month, so the June data was collected as Florida began phase 2 of its reopening plan during the pandemic.

Nonfarm businesses had a net gain of 13,100 jobs added to their payrolls last month, the Department of Economic Opportunity said.

By far the biggest job gains in the month came in the leisure and hospitality sector, with 11,300 jobs added in Northeast Florida from May to June.

However, with that sector hard hit by COVID-19-related closures, total leisure and hospitality jobs in June were still 11,700 lower than June 2019, a 13.4% drop.

Total nonfarm jobs in the Jacksonville area remained 27,000 lower than June 2019, a 3.4% decline.

The June data was collected before the number of reported COVID-19 cases began surging in Florida, and more recent data shows that could be having an impact on the labor market.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported July 16 that new claims for unemployment insurance in Florida nearly doubled to 129,408 for the week ending July 11, from 66,941 the previous week.

That was the highest level since new weekly claims topped 200,000 at the end of May.

“The resurgence of cases will likely slow down the resumption of economic activities, especially in sectors closely connected to leisure, food services, and entertainment,” Loh said.

Duval County’s unemployment rate fell from 11% in May to 8.6% in June, the Department of Economic Opportunity said.

Loh said when seasonally adjusted, the county’s jobless rate fell from 9.89% in May to 7.72% in June.

The other four counties in the metropolitan area all had lower rates than Duval in June, without seasonal adjustment.

Baker County was the lowest at 6.2%, followed by Clay at 6.8%, St. Johns at 7% and Nassau at 7.4%.

Only five of Florida’s 24 metro areas had a lower rate in June than Jacksonville’s unadjusted 8%, and all five are in North Florida.

The lowest rate was 6.5% for the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin area. That was followed by Gainesville at 6.7%, Tallahassee and Panama City at 7.1% and Pensacola at 7.4%

Florida’s unemployment rate fell by 3.3 percentage points last month to a seasonally adjusted 10.4%, the Department of Economic Opportunity said.