Florida’s unemployment rate eases to 4.7%, but high joblessness still nags Broward and Miami-Dade

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Florida’s unemployment rate eased slightly to 4.7% in February as 474,000 residents remained out of work and parts of South Florida were among the state’s worst areas for joblessness, the Department of Economic Opportunity said Friday.

Broward and Miami-Dade counties continued to show some of the highest rates among Florida’s 67 counties, although all three of South Florida’s counties showed declines from January. Broward’s rate was 5.6%, down from 5.8%; Miami-Dade’s eased to 7.9% from 8.1%; and Palm Beach County’s rate fell to 4.5% from 4.8%.

Statewide, nonagricultural employment stood at 8,512,100, which represented a modest increase of 19,600 jobs since January, but down by 560,000 jobs compared with a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic shattered the economy. January’s statewide jobless rate was 4.8%.

“All ten major industries experienced negative over-the-year job growth in February,” the DEO said in a statement.

But eight of those industries had month-over-month job increases, DEO economist Adrienne Johnson told reporters Friday.

The agency noted that 5,600 jobs in arts, entertainment and recreation were lost last month, but the hotel and food services sector gained 5,200.

Retail gained 4,600 jobs, and health care services restored 2,300. Construction lost 3,000 jobs while educational services lost 400.

Central Florida’s tourism-heavy economy continued to show high levels of joblessness as Osceola County had the state’s highest unemployment rate at 8.8%, while Orange County’s rate stood at 6.9% for February.

Hotels, restaurants seek help

Despite the job market’s slow recovery, the hospitality industry is getting a lift from Spring Break and a rebound in leisure travel, according to industry analysts. But operators report difficulty in securing the help they need as workers have sought jobs elsewhere or elected to rely on state and federal unemployment benefits.

Many hotels reliant on events such as conferences and conventions remain closed or are operating with smaller-than-usual staffs as business travel continues to trail the vacation business.

The 1,000-room Diplomat Hotel and Resort in Hollywood remains closed. According to a spokeswoman for Local 355 of Unite Here!, the hotel owner this week agreed to extend a guarantee to recall 650 unionized workers through May 31, but has given no indication on when the beachfront property will reopen.

In Central Florida, several hotels are extending furloughs for workers that started last March, according to filings this week with the state. They include two Marriott hotels in Orlando and Fort Myers and a Hilton near Orlando. The actions affect more than 150 workers.

New arrivals, new jobs

Decisions by financial and technology businesses from the Northeast, Midwest and California to relocate to South Florida offer the prospects of new employment from Palm Beach County to Miami-Dade, economic development officials say.

“This is the strongest job market we’ve seen in a year — it’s a great time to search for a new job or a better one,” said Julia Dattolo, president and CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County, the nonprofit job search and placement organization for the county.

In a statement, the agency said 86% of the jobs lost to the pandemic in the county have been recovered and the number of people working now is nearing the number of those who worked when the pandemic began.

“There is strong employment and economic growth being driven by extended federal relief, increased consumer spending, falling COVID cases and expanded vaccine rollout,” the agency said.

It added that there are now nearly 2,200 job openings in the county compared to less than 400 in April 2020.

The county’s upbeat job outlook is fueled by recently announced pending arrivals of new businesses to the region.

Financial giant Goldman Sachs Group is reportedly relocating “hundreds of employees” from New York to West Palm Beach, according to the Business Development Board. Elliott Management, the $41 billion fund manager, is moving its headquarters from Manhattan to West Palm Beach.

Mortgage financial firm NewDay USA picked Palm Beach County for its second headquarters, creating 600 new jobs in the city’s downtown.

Virtu Financial is moving its New York headquarters to Palm Beach Gardens, employing 50 people.

Point72 Asset Management, led by New York Mets owner Steve Cohen, will open an office for about 45 employees, expanding in downtown West Palm Beach.

According to the board, recent job generating relocations in manufacturing and life sciences include:

FINFROCK, a design-builder of commercial structures, which is erecting a manufacturing facility in Belle Glade (200 jobs).

AeroClean Technologies, which established a manufacturing headquarters in Palm Beach Gardens (100 jobs).

SIW Solutions, maker of high end impact windows and doors, is moving into a headquarters in central Palm Beach County (250 jobs).

Exuma Biotech is locating a research lab in the county (100 jobs).

Palm Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center announced a multimillion-dollar project in Boynton Beach for the equestrian industry (375 jobs).

Broward County also has a number of commitments from new businesses.

KeySource, a Cincinnati company that supplies the generic pharmaceutical needs of pharmacies, added an office in Fort Lauderdale (35 jobs).

Amazon is building a “last mile” delivery facility in Deerfield beach (275 jobs).

Amazon is also in the earlier stages of developing a large fulfillment center in Sunrise that would employ 1,000 people.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance says it is working with an unidentified technology company that is moving its headquarters from New York State to Broward. An announcement is pending,

Two unidentified marine industry companies are also interested in moving their headquarters to the county from out of state, an alliance spokeswoman said.

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