UNF economist sees 'return of jobs' in Jacksonville unemployment report

Leisure and hospitality is the hardest-hit industry but brought back some positions.

  • By
  • | 2:00 p.m. June 19, 2020
  • Business
  • Share

Jacksonville’s unemployment rate was unchanged from April to May, but University of North Florida economist Albert Loh said there were encouraging signs in the latest report.

“Although the unemployment rates in May remained largely unchanged from last month, both the labor force and employment grew considerably,” Loh said.

“The extent of the increases clearly reflects the return of jobs and workers, resulting from the reopening” after COVID-19 pandemic-related closures, he said.

The unemployment rate for the Jacksonville metropolitan area of Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties was 11.2% in May, unchanged from April, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported June 19.

Although the state agency does not adjust the data for seasonal factors, Loh said the jobless rate also was stable when seasonally adjusted.

According to UNF’s Local Economic Indicators Project, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged down from 11.33% in April to 11.29% in May

The Jacksonville area labor force, which includes employed people and those actively looking for a job, grew by about 27,000 in May. Most of the additional people in the labor force were able to find jobs, according to the data.

“The latest local employment statistics show that after a two-month slide, the labor market in Jacksonville entered the phase of economic recovery,” Loh said.

The statistics also show Jacksonville area businesses brought workers back in May.

Nonfarm businesses in the metropolitan area added 21,200 jobs to their payrolls in May. However, the number was jobs was still 50,500 lower than it was in May 2019, a 7% decline.

By far the biggest job losses have come in the leisure and hospitality sector, which dropped by 25,300 in the past 12 months, down 28.8%.

Businesses in the sector did bring back 14,000 jobs between April and May.

The only major sector to add jobs in the past year is wholesale trade, which increased by 600 or 2.2%.

The Jacksonville area had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, with only four of Florida’s 23 metropolitan areas recording a lower rate in May. Gainesville and Tallahassee tied for the lowest rate, at 8.7%, the only two metro areas below 10%.

Duval County’s unemployment rate edged up from 11.5% in April to 11.7% in May, without adjustment. But when seasonally adjusted, the rate dropped by 1.48 percentage points to 10.52%, Loh said.

Baker County's unadjusted unemployment rate rose in May but was by far the lowest among the five counties in the metro area, going from 7.2% in April to 7.7% in May.

Clay County declined slightly from 9.8% to 9.7%, while Nassau County fell by 1.1 point to 11% and St. Johns County also fell by 1.1 point to 10.5%.

The Department of Economic Opportunity said Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 13.8% in April to 14.5% in May.