Jacksonville unemployment rate falls to 5.8% in August

“The recovery of the local labor market in Jacksonville accelerated in August, with the return of jobs outpacing the growth in labor force,” UNF economist says.

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  • | 10:34 a.m. September 18, 2020
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Jacksonville’s unemployment rate dropped sharply in August as more people returned to work.

The jobless rate in the Jacksonville metropolitan area (Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties) fell from 8.8% in July to 5.8% in August, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Sept. 18.

“The local labor market in Jacksonville fared better than the state and the nation in general,” said University of North Florida economist Albert Loh.

Florida’s statewide unemployment rate dropped by 4 percentage points to a seasonally adjusted 7.4% last month, the Department of Economic Opportunity said.

The agency does not adjust the Jacksonville data for seasonal factors. But Loh said when the data is seasonally adjusted, it showed the Northeast Florida unemployment rate fell from 8.73% in July to 5.94% in August.

Duval County’s jobless rate fell by 3.1 percentage points to 6.5% in August, without seasonal adjustments.

The other four counties in the metropolitan area were all below 5% after big declines last month. Baker was at 4.4%, Clay at 4.6%, St. Johns at 4.7% and Nassau at 4.9%.

August is usually a time when people return to work after summer vacations.

However, “the typical seasonable change in August due to schools starting does not explain away the substantial decrease in unemployment rate,” Loh said.

“The recovery of the local labor market in Jacksonville accelerated in August, with the return of jobs outpacing the growth in labor force,” he said.

The size of the Jacksonville area labor force (people with jobs or actively looking for work) grew by about 11,000 in August to 774,774, with a large number of people finding jobs or returning to their old jobs after layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of people with jobs grew by about 33,000 to 729,826, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity’s survey of households in Northeast Florida.

A separate survey of business payrolls found non-farm employers added 8,200 jobs in August, a 1.2% gain.

However, the number of jobs was 25,900 lower than in August 2019, a 3.6% decline.

The biggest job losses this year have been in the leisure and hospitality sector, which have fallen by 13,900 in the 12 months through August, a 15.8% drop.

Although businesses were bringing workers back last month, the leisure and hospitality sector still had a net decline of 900 between July and August.

Most recent job losses are related to the pandemic but other layoffs have affected some Jacksonville workers.

American Technical Ceramics Corp. last week sent a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification letter to state and city officials saying it will lay off 45 workers between Nov. 12 and Nov. 25.

This is the final phase of a layoff outlined last year in a WARN notice by the manufacturer of electronic components. American Technical Ceramics said it was cutting 92 jobs as it moved a product group to a plant in South Carolina.

Last week’s letter reiterated the company’s plan to keep 80 employees in Jacksonville.

Two weeks ago, Jacksonville-based Venus Fashion Inc. said it is cutting 120 jobs at its Northside fulfillment center under a plan to open a second distribution center on the West Coast.

The swimwear and women’s apparel company will continue to employ more than 500 people in Jacksonville, including 50 at the distribution center.

The Department of Economic Opportunity’s report is based on data collected in the middle of August. More recent data on new claims for unemployment insurance show Florida's labor market is continuing to improve in September.

New claims by Floridians dropped in the week ended Sept. 12 for the fourth week in a row to 33,821, the lowest level since mid-March, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

However, the number of unemployment claims is still well above the weekly level before businesses began shutting down in March because of the pandemic. New claims averaged about 5,500 per week for the first 11 weeks of the year.

The number of weekly claims in Florida peaked at 506,670 in the week ended April 18.