Brevard County's unemployment rate decreases to pre-pandemic level

·7 min read

Brevard County's unemployment rate has dropped to pre-pandemic levels for the first time, according to data released Friday.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Brevard's unemployment rate was 3.2% in December, down from 3.4% in November and 3.3% in December 2020. The jobless rate has not been this low locally since December 2019, when it was 3.1%.

It also was the sixth consecutive monthly decrease, after it was at 5.0% in June.

The rate had soared as high as 13.2% in April 2020 as a result of pandemic-related layoffs.

The statewide jobless rate also declined in December, as the number of people entering the labor force increased and the number of people who are unemployed decreased.

All that "sets us up really well for a strong 2022," Adrienne Johnston, chief economist for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said Friday during a briefing on the data.

  • The number of employed people in Brevard County rose to 289,914 in December, compared with 289,142 in November and 269,051 in December 2020.

  • The number of unemployed people in Brevard fell to 9,613 in December, compared with 10,079 in November. That figure was 9,038 in December 2020.

Painters work on a D.R. Horton home on a construction site in Palm Bay.
Painters work on a D.R. Horton home on a construction site in Palm Bay.

Statewide, the unemployment was 4.4% in December, compared with 4.5% in November and 5.1% in December 2020.

However the national unemployment rate was even lower that Florida's rate. It was 3.9% in December, compared with 4.2% in November and 6.7% in December 2020.

The state and national rates reported are seasonally adjusted to take into account factors that occur every year, such as pre-Christmas retail hiring.

The rates reported for individual metropolitan areas and counties are not seasonally adjusted.

More: Brevard employers facing difficulty in filling wide range of job openings

More: Florida's improved unemployment rate leads to scaled-back benefits

In summarizing labor market trends in 2021, Johnston said there was "strong growth, strong labor force. I think you've noticed that we've really focused on labor force gains over this year. That was exactly what we were looking forward to see as we come out of the pandemic."

Johnston said the key data to watch are whether people are "engaged in the labor market," as well as "getting jobs, so as the labor force was increasing, our unemployment rates continued to decline."

Johnston said the state is "seeing a lot of growth in high-wage industries. We're diversifying our economy. Businesses continued to add to their payrolls. So all of that is a strong picture for 2021."

Florida lost 1,269,200 jobs from February to April 2020, and has since gained back 92.1% of the jobs lost, or 1,168,400 jobs.

There were 466,000 unemployed Floridians in December out of a labor force of 10,660,000.

Florida employers posted about 510,000 online job listings in November, with jobs in sales, service and health care among the most commonly advertised positions.

DeSantis reacts to data

In a statement issued after the data release, Gov. Ron DeSantis said: "Our new businesses and workforce growth show that Floridians have the opportunities they need to thrive. We will continue to lead the nation in economic growth because we value the individual freedoms of Floridians and protect the ability for our citizens to succeed."

Although Florida's unemployment rate is higher than the national unemployment rate, DeSantis focused on increases in the labor force and in the number of jobs.

He noted that Florida has had 20 consecutive months of job growth and 14 consecutive months of labor force increases.

"In the past year, Florida’s labor force has grown by 6.1%, which is more than six times faster than the nation," the statement said. "This strong growth is an excellent indicator of consumer confidence in the job market."

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said DeSantis "continues to prioritize investments in industries that further diversify our state’s economy."

"Floridians have remained confident in their ability to find good jobs to continue providing for their families and enhancing their quality of life," Eagle said. "Along with Gov. DeSantis, I remain committed to continuing to make Florida an attractive state for business and workforce growth for years to come.”

Four of Florida's 10 major industries have gained back the number of the jobs lost during the pandemic. These industries include construction; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; and professional and businesses services.

Johnston said, when the labor force increases, "it is often a sign that people are optimistic about employment opportunities and are choosing to enter the job market."

Among other trends Johnston noted.

  • Floridians under age 25 are much more likely to be employed now than before the pandemic.

  • Floridians over age 55 are dropping out of the labor market.

  • The percentage of the population classified as retirees has increased as a share of the population.

  • A main reason people who not actively seeking work cited for not being in the labor market are their "home responsibilities."

  • The number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs has increased for nine consecutive months, a sign that people "are more optimistic about their ability to find work, if they leave their current job."

  • People reentering the workforce or initially entering the workforce also are increasing, indicating that "individuals who were not previously looking for work are now more confident that jobs are available."

  • Florida employers posted about 510,000 online job listings in November, with the common industries with job openings including sales, service and health care.

Where jobs increased

In Brevard, eight of the 10 major industries gained jobs in the past year, according to data compiled by CareerSource Brevard.

The industries gaining in jobs over the year were professional and business services (+3,400 jobs); leisure and hospitality (+3,300 jobs); education and health services (+2,200 jobs); trade, transportation and utilities (+1,900 jobs); manufacturing (+700 jobs); other services (+500 jobs); construction, mining and logging (+400 jobs); and financial activities (+100 jobs).

The government sector lost 500 jobs over the year in Brevard, while jobs in the information industry was unchanged over the year.

Sectors that grew faster in Brevard than the statewide growth were professional and business services (+9.1%); education and health services (+6.4%); and manufacturing (+2.4%).

Where Brevard ranks

At 3.2%, Brevard County was tied for having the 20th-lowest unemployment rate among the state's 67 counties in December.

It was tied for having the sixth-lowest unemployment rate among the state's 24 metro areas.

Miami-Dade County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate in December (1.4%), followed by Monroe County (2.1%), St. Johns County (2.5%) and Collier County (2.7%).

Putnam County had the highest unemployment rate (5.2%), followed by Hamilton County (5.1%), and Citrus, Highlands and Sumter counties (4.7% each).

Among Florida's metro areas and divisions, the lowest unemployment rate was 1.4% in the Miami/Miami Beach/Kendall metro division.

The highest rate was 4.7% in Homosassa Springs.

Municipal data

The DEO also tracks unemployment rates for Brevard's four most populous cities. Here are those numbers:

  • Melbourne: 3.6% in December, down from 3.8% in November. The rate peaked at 13.8% in April 2020 and was 3.3% just before the pandemic in February 2020.

  • Palm Bay: 3.6% in December, down from 3.8% in November. The rate peaked at 13.5% in April 2020 and was 3.4% just before the pandemic in February 2020.

  • Rockledge: 2.7% in December, down from 3.0% in November. The rate peaked at 12.2% in April 2020 and was 3.1% just before the pandemic in February 2020.

  • Titusville: 3.6% in December, down from 3.8% in November. The rate peaked at 15.4% in April 2020 and was 3.5% just before the pandemic in February 2020.

Dave Berman is business editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at dberman@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @bydaveberman.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: At 3.1%, Brevard's unemployment rate is the lowest since December 2019

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