New numbers from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity show that the state's unemployment rate edged up slightly in May to 6.3%. That translates to about 606,000 jobless Floridians.
The bump in the rate, from April’s 6.2% mark, was not totally unexpected. Economists had projected it to grow slightly, as more people began seeking work as the economic recovery continues. DEO Executive Director Jesse Panuccio says concentrate on the big picture.
“Certainly, over the last three years and the last year, we’ve seen a steady decrease in unemployment,” said Panuccio. “This month there was a slight uptick but at the same time, hidden behind that number is that the labor force grew again this month. It’s grown every month since the beginning of the year.”
Florida also lost nearly 18,000 jobs last month, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the steepest such drop in the nation, ahead of Arizona and Illinois. Panuccio contends those are more than offset by the year-to-date figure of 81,000 jobs created statewide. The largest over-the-month increases in employment occurred in Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York.
University of West Florida economist Rick Harper says the flooding in late April also showed up in the local tourism and hospitality numbers.
“Bridge traffic was down 5.5% over the Memorial Day weekend,” Harper said. “And what the hoteliers have told me, on the beach particularly, is that people from far and away weren’t aware that northwest Florida and Pensacola were open for business. They feared there would be damage to some of the infrastructure and tourist amenities.”
Another red flag that went up was attendance at the annual LGBT events at and around Pensacola Beach – which did not stack up to the crowds in past years. Harper says part of that could have been due to a decrease of the number of concert and festival offerings.
Six major local sectors have gained jobs over the year: leisure and hospitality, financial, construction, trade, transportation and utilities, and manufacturing and information. Four other areas, professional and business services, education and health services, other services, and government, lost jobs over the same period.
Many are concentrating on the 18,000 lost jobs in the May figures. That comes at a time when Gov. Rick Scott is making jobs the crown jewel issue of his re-election campaign. A spokesman for Charlie Crist, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to oppose Scott in November, calls the DOE release "a gymnastics show."
Overall unemployment rates were up across the western Panhandle in May. Escambia County went from 5.9% to 6.2%. Santa Rosa 5% to 5.4%, and Okaloosa County rose from 4.2% to 4.4%. Among metro areas, Pensacola‐Ferry Pass‐Brent went from 5.6% to 5.9%, while Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin jumped from 4.2% to 4.4%.