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Gulf unemployment picture brightens

Gulf County’s unemployment picture brightened considerably last month, as the jobless rate dropped by more than 2 percentage points.

According to preliminary numbers released Sept. 18 by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in August was 5.2 percent, down by 2.4 percentage points, from the July rate of 7.6 percent.

This sharp drop in joblessness, which followed a rise of nearly 1 percentage point in July, came as 129 people left the unemployment line, which now numbers 293.

The labor force in August rose by 58 workers, from 5,585 in July to 5,643 last month. The workforce remains smaller than one year ago, when it was at 5,851, the jobless rolls were smaller at 256, and the unemployment rate, at 4.4 percent, was better than it is today.

CareerSource Gulf Coast serves Franklin, Gulf and Bay counties.

The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Gulf Coast region,  which also includes Bay, and Gulf counties, was 5.1 percent, which was 1.5 percentage points higher than the region's year ago rate of 3.6 percent.

The region's August unemployment rate was 2.6 percentage points lower than the state rate of 7.7 percent. The labor force was 92,346, down 3,776 (-3.9 percent) over the year. There were 4,737 unemployed residents in the region.

Gulf’s unemployment rate was higher than in Bay County, at 5.1 percent, and Franklin, at 4.8 percent last month. In Liberty County the jobless rate, at 4.1 percent, was also better than here.

August labor statistics reflect the continued effects of COVID-19 and the efforts to reopen businesses and services.

Florida lost 1.18 million jobs from February to April, and has since gained back over half of the jobs lost, with 631,600 jobs returning.

Nine of 10 major industries experienced negative over-the-year job growth in August. The industry gaining jobs over the year was government, with 1,900 jobs, or two-tenths of 1 percent.

The industry losing the most jobs over the year was leisure and hospitality, a loss of 249,400 jobs, or 19.8 percent.

Other industries losing jobs over the year included professional and business services (-69,600 jobs, -5.0 percent); trade, transportation, and utilities (-54,500 jobs, -3.0 percent); other services (-30,200 jobs, -8.5 percent); education and health services (-16,400 jobs, -1.2 percent); information (-12,700 jobs, -9.2 percent); manufacturing (-11,500 jobs, - 3.0 percent); financial activities(-8,100 jobs, -1.4 percent); and construction (-5,500 jobs, -1.0 percent).

The data on reemployment assistance claims shows that on Aug. 20 each of the three counties had claims from 1.6 percent of their workforce. The percentage of the workforce requiring such help as far back as March 7 up through Aug. 29, was about 13.4 percent in Gulf, even higher in Franklin at 17.4 percent, and the highest in Bay, at 19.2 percent.

Extended Benefits, a federal program implemented by the state, authorizes up-to an additional six weeks of benefits to eligible individuals who have exhausted Reemployment Assistance benefits during periods of high unemployment.

Floridians who have exhausted their state Reemployment Assistance and their Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits and may be eligible for Extended Benefits will receive the opportunity to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Individuals should review the application for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and apply to determine if they are eligible.

Gulf’s jobless rate tied it with Hardee, about in the middle of Florida’s 67 counties.

Posting better numbers were Bay, Levy and Suwannee counties, at 5.1 percent; Bradford at 5.0 percent; Alachua, Dixie, Jackson, Nassau and Okeechobee counties, at 4.9 percent; Calhoun, Franklin, Glades and Washington counties all at 4.8 percent; St. John’s and Walton counties, at 4.7 percent; Clay and Holmes, at 4.6; and DeSoto, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa at 4.5.

The top six best Florida counties for unemployment were Baker, Gilchrist and Union at 4.4, Wakulla at 4.2, Liberty at 4.1, and Lafayette County at 3.4 percent, the best in the state.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.4 percent in August, down 4.0 percentage points from the revised July rate, and up 4.4 percentage points from a year ago. There were 753,000 jobless Floridians out of a labor force of 10.1 million. The U.S. unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in August.

Florida’s seasonally adjusted total nonagricultural employment was 8.53 million in August, an increase of 57,900 jobs (+0.7 percent) over the month. The state lost 456,100 jobs over the year, a decrease of 5.1 percent. Nationally, the number of jobs fell 6.8 percent over the year.