Florida unemployment rate holds steady, as Orlando tops metro areas for joblessness

Florida’s unemployment rate was unchanged from October at 6.4%, but Orlando recorded the highest number of any metropolitan area in the state at 7.7%.

A report released Friday by the Department of Economic Opportunity shows the continuing powerful effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the state and particularly Central Florida’s tourism-dependent economy.

In all, about 651,000 Floridians were jobless in November, the report says.

In Central Florida, Orange County came in at 8.1% for November, Osceola at 9.7%, Lake at 6.5% and Seminole at 5.7%. Osceola and Orange had the first- and second-highest county rates in the state.

Metro Orlando’s rate topped that of Miami’s, which in previous months had posted the highest percentage of joblessness.

Adrienne Johnston, DEO’s chief of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics, said seasonal retail hiring was slow this year.

“I think we’re seeing where people are shopping online a little bit more of the season. Businesses did not add as many employees to their payrolls,” Johnson said in a conference call.

The overall U.S. unemployment rate for November was 6.7%.

The report says the total number of jobs in Florida was 8,588,200 in November 2020, down 418,500 from November 2019. The industry that has lost the most jobs was leisure and hospitality — 187,500 jobs or 14.9% fewer from the year before.

The pandemic has brought tens of thousands of layoffs at Orlando theme parks, hotels, restaurants and other businesses that thrive on tourism.

At Walt Disney World alone, about 18,000 people have been terminated.

There are, however, some signs of revival as vaccines come online. Universal Orlando and Disney have recently announced reopening dates for some of their hotels. And the theme parks themselves are still up and running, although at greatly reduced capacity.

Florida has regained more than half of the nearly 1.2 million jobs lost in the spring when the pandemic first emerged.

“The good news is we are seeing people come back into the labor market. Our labor force is growing,” Johnston said. “Businesses are creating jobs, so we are seeing things come back.”

The AAA travel club released an end-of-year forecast Tuesday that predicted 34 million fewer Americans will head out for holiday trips. It also said 1.7 million fewer Floridians are expected to travel, a drop of 30% from last year.

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/os-bz-florida-unemployment-november-20201218-5gr7noqbanerto76xlaq424ov4-story.html

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