Unemployment plummeted again in Sarasota-Manatee in April, with the jobless rate falling to another all-time low.
As the labor force in the area grew by 5.6% compared to April of 2021, the jobless rate hit a low of 2.1%, according to data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. That's a drop from another recorded low of 2.4% in March and a significant dip from 4.0% in April of last year.
The state unemployment rate, which is seasonally adjusted, also fell from March to hit 3.0% in April. The statewide labor force consisted of 10.5 million people, including 321,000 who are unemployed. Local unemployment rates are not seasonally adjusted.
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Unemployment remains low as employers in several industries have struggled to hire and inflation remains high. Traditionally, unemployment and inflation have had an inverse relationship, meaning when one is low the other is generally high, Jay Bryson, chief economist at Wells Fargo Economics in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"If you don't have a lot of people to draw from in the workforce, that tends to push wages up," Bryson said.
In Sarasota-Manatee, nonfarm employers added 21,300 jobs over the year. That included gains in leisure and hospitality (6,000 jobs), education and health services (3,900 jobs), professional and business services (3,700 jobs), government (2,700 jobs), trade, transportation and utilities (2,500 jobs), manufacturing (1,400 jobs), mining, logging and construction (500 jobs), other services (500 jobs) and financial activities (100 jobs).
The information sector remained unchanged compared to April 2021, and no industries lost jobs over the year.
The national unemployment rate was 3.6% last month.
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Florida lost nearly 1.3 million jobs from February 2020 to April 2020, when businesses closed and cut back in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida has regained those jobs and added to them, with the total at nearly 1.5 million jobs, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
One sign of improved economic conditions for workers is that 404,000 Floridians in March quit jobs, 97,000 more than in February and 167,000 more than a year earlier, Adrienne Johnston, the department’s chief economist, said in a conference call with reporters.
“It's not people moving out of the labor force. It's not people who are discouraged. It's people who are actually encouraged,” Johnston said. “They feel that there are opportunities to find other work and perhaps improve their career.”
The report also showed that over the past year the leisure and hospitality industry, which took the biggest hit from the pandemic, gained 152,300 jobs across the state.
Johnston noted the hospitality sector is below where it was before the pandemic. But record tourism in the first quarter of 2022 offered positive signs for the industry, Johnston added.
“We know that the industry overall is performing very well and that there's a lot of productivity in that industry,” Johnston said. “We just haven't quite gotten back to where we were with jobs, but we continue to make progress in that area.”
After leisure and hospitality, sectors involved with trade, transportation and utilities have done the second best in adding jobs over the past year, up 118,400 positions, followed by professional and business services at 102,100 jobs and financial activities at 40,800 jobs.
The state also reported growth over the past year in jobs in manufacturing, construction and education and health services.
The tourism-heavy Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metro area added the most jobs in the past year, up 103,000, according to the department.
The lowest unemployment rates last month were in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin and Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island regions, both at 1.9%.
Among large metro areas, the Jacksonville region was at 2.2%, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach region was at 2.5%, and the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford region was at 2.6%.
The Sebring area had the highest rate at 3.5%, followed by Homosassa Springs at 3.3% and The Villages at 3.0%.
This report includes material from the News Service of Florida.
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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Unemployment in Sarasota and Manatee falls to 2.1% in April